The First-Ever Quantified Self Notes (Plus: LSD as Cognitive Enhancer?)


The very first Quantified Self meetup, held at Kevin Kelly’s home. Here, Dr. Seth Roberts is speaking, and I’m seated third from the right. (Photo: Kevin Kelly)

Below are the notes I took at the very first Quantified Self meet-up on 9/10/08.

It was held in the picturesque home of Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of WIRED magazine. Surrounded by books, wood paneling, and white boards, we had one hell of a jam session.

From that small, 28-person gathering, “QS” has since grown into a pop-culture term and international phenomenon, with organizations in more than 20 countries. Forbes has even called 2013 “The Year of the Quantified Self.”

Here’s where it started…

Next, just for fun…

Next, just for fun: a term paper (and some random notes) from my sophomore year in college. It’s far from perfect, but it explores some worthwhile questions.

The late Professor Hoebel, a pioneer in food addiction research, was a fascinating man and incredible teacher. This paper was written when I was interested in later joining the lab of Dr. Barry Jacobs, which was focused on brain monoamine neurotransmitters. Alas, I couldn’t hack the requisite animal testing and later switched from neuroscience to East Asian Studies with a focus on language acquisition.

And now to the question: could LSD function as a cognitive enhancer? Hmmm…

For posts on my own self-experimentation, click here and scroll through.

A huge styrofoam robot — one of many wonders in Kevin Kelly’s home. (Photo: Telstar Logistics)

Posted on: April 3, 2013.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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87 comments on “The First-Ever Quantified Self Notes (Plus: LSD as Cognitive Enhancer?)

  1. Tim,

    Unrelated feedback.
    I’m not a fan of the new blog design / color scheme. It doesn’t look as professional or appealing as the previous design. The content section also seems smaller.
    The overall aesthetics aren’t as pleasing in my opinion.


    Liked by 1 person

      • Agree that the current design could use some work, but I checked out Christopher’s link and with just a few exceptions those were way too busy. I’d find some more attractive sidebar colors and add just a few simple html elements.


      • Hi Chris,

        The designs you showed are no doubt great but those are for people who have more to to show off than to teach. For readers this design and layout is spot on (I’m not saying perfect) because the width is narrow which keeps more focus on the actual content + the darker background works as a “Turn off the light” extension where more focus is emphasized on the center.

        If you even study conversion optimization these things do matter :)



      • Tim,

        I have some experience in this field. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to see if I can help you improve the blog design.


      • Also, the search field is hidden on small screens. While out and about recently, using the site on my phone, I had to wait till I was back home at my laptop to find what I wanted.

        It would be nice to have that in somewhere. Even as a small magnifying glass icon that wouldn’t interfere much with the small header screen real estate. Clicking the icon could slide reveal the search field.


  2. This is why I love this blog. I can find validation for my good and my bad habits…

    Tim, can we get some music related posts? I’ll totally reblog on Exit 77.

    Hip hop head? Maybe…


  3. Tim, you rock man! From the language learning to the travels, you are living my dream life. Keep up the good work.

    So, this proposed experiment is interesting to think about. Memory is a huge science and could be an awesome new market. My question is… have you ever tested on yourself and what was your experience?


  4. =) I’m headed to a QS meeting in Boston tonight (went to one two weeks ago too) to talk about telomere measurement and tracking. TeloMe has a new saliva-based, DTC telomere analysis that they’re offering for $99/test (via Indiegogo: Very cool. I’m always impressed to meet self-quantifiers. They are, by definition, stranger than most, but also uniquely important to everyone. Who else but a QS-er would determine that 3 hours of wearing orange-tinted glasses before bedtime helps reduce the time to sleep? Awesome group. Glad to be a part.



    • Interesting.

      Hopefully one day it will become acceptable again to further these type of studies and gather more hard scientific data instead of the usual scare-mongering stuff.

      [Guided] self-experimentation for the win ;)

      Tim, the fact that you were able to write ‘just a term’ paper as shown above shows that you are definitely not one of the general populace who happened to make it big…you had the right cognitive baseline to start the interesting and well-published life journey you find yourself currently on.

      Don’t stop the journey any time soon… it is too fascinating to follow!


      • I agree. His journey has been very inspirational to me. I am also a teacher. Now a days I am back in my country ( Spain ) and my hometown. The economic crisis, paralleled with an illness and my start up closing after 7 years kinda forced me to return home. Thanks to lessons like Tim´s I can keep connected to like minded people and keep my morale. Both things are not easy in Spain´s general economic and social mindset. THANK YOU


      • It saddens me, and makes me enraged too, knowing that there are drugs, aswell as natural cures, out there improving and curing “lost” cases but there are restrictions making it difficult to access them. ( I am not speaking about LSD in particular, but I am saying…why not? I am sure it is worth a serious trial )


  5. Hi Tim,

    James Fadiman in his book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide
    writes about studies he did on LSD and creativity, before it became illegal to do so. He had experts from different industries prepare with problems that they couldt solve and had tried for some time, to try to solve them under the influence of LSD and therapy. The result was very promising, and many breakthroughs was made. He also mention the use of small doses of LSD, around 10 mcg, as nootropic. This dose will give a extra edge, you’ll be more creative, achieve flow much more easy and so on. In my on experience its quite a powerful tool for solving difficult problems.



  6. Awesome post. It’s so important to be around like minded people and stay creative.
    I have a bit of a tough time with “staying in the mix” because I’m living in the Chicago suburbs and have a 2 year old kid.
    Thanks for sharing your notes. Really makes the experience concrete.


  7. Lately I have had much success with micro-doses at 20-70 mcg as a generalized nootropic. Non-hallucinogenic, promotes flow, dissolves the ego. Much calmer and more balanced for the following month; no noted downsides.

    Immediate duration still lasts the full ~8 hours so best not to have too much on the docket for that day (other than writing/creating, etc). You’re functional, but alone time is still best. Really great for bringing things to the surface that the subconscious has been wrestling with.

    Easy to get from vetted sellers on the ‘silk road’ using the Tor browser. Great for monthly insights in-between an annual hero dose. Worth trying.


    • Thanks for the comment, Todd. What is your dosing schedule/amount to produce the “following month” effect you write about here?

      “Much calmer and more balanced for the following month; no noted downsides.”




      • I’ve experimented with a few schedules and amounts. Initially I bought a few pieces of blotter advertised as being 150mcg and cut them into 4ths, to roughly 35 mcg a pop. I was solely looking for nootropic benefits, not just wasting time or escaping reality. My first experience was with 1 of these (35mcg) and was the first time I’ve done anything past drinking or the very occasional weed vape.

        It was fantastic and easily one of the best experiences of my life. There were a few phases: the first 2 hours were very clear (sharper vision, brighter colors), hours 3-4 were very goofy and euphoric (laughing to myself for no reason, dancing alone to music in my room), hours 5-6 were very introspective (opened a notepad file on my desktop and poured amazing insights out) and hours 7-8 were very focused with extra bloodflow to the prefrontal cortex (intellectual music, like Dylan, was not only very stimulating but really shook me to my core and connected).

        I was much more focused in the following days and weeks; not in my usual speedy overcompensation, but more of a relaxed, balanced, constant clarity. Outside judgements and norms became totally irrelevant (i already did my own thing, but this took it to the next level). Striving for external rewards and acceptance became pointless; like the neurochemical backend to agreeing conceptually with “Fight Club”.

        Which is not to say I became some passive hippy. On the contrary, I’ve experienced passion and energy like never before since. Its just that its 100% self-directed.. and whenever someone disagrees with me, I now just smile. It’s cute. Like I’m on a higher plane of consciousness and awareness. “They know not what they do”. Let the masses have their distractions.

        I did 2 of those 1/4ths (thus 70mcg) 2 weeks later when I was a bit drowsy one day and had determined that the day was already a waste, so why not try and salvage it. No euphoria that time, but still some great insights. Fundamental truths about my character and path. Like a mirror directly to the soul. Also opened me up emotionally- have since gotten much, much closer with the difficult factions of my family and friends. No more repressions: I cry at movies now. But, again, not just some sissy: so long as “Rudy” isn’t playing, the emotional pendulum swings in the other direction and I’m more driven and forceful than ever before. Think Steve Jobs.

        After a little more experimentation I’ve decided that 35-70mcg no more than once per month (marginal benefits after first use of the month; receptor downregulation, etc), and no fewer than once per quarter (significant benefits so long as it is segmented), is an ideal dosing schedule. After about 6 weeks one time I noticed myself becoming more of a dick (had been experimenting with lots of fasting; neurochemically shifting back into a ‘scarcity’ mindset, rather than ideal ‘abundance’) and 35mcg got me right back to being whole again.

        If you’re on the fence in regards to what lies ahead for your next chapter, I can’t recommend it enough.

        Lastly I’m a big fan and beneficiary of your work. If you’d like to discuss any of this in more depth, including easiest/safest procurement, I would be happy to help- stratford dot td at gmail. I’m the guy who brought you the bottle of rombauer carneros at the end of the panera bread 5th ave NYC 4HC signing in november.. still owe you though.


      • Haha — it doesn’t hurt. It definitely helps with self-actualization, inner confidence, “inner game”, etc.

        Its a two sided coin though. You notice people chasing the wrong things and ignorant of their shackles; dumb girls trolling for D can be even more annoying than usual. But, other times I’m at peace with those types and despite our differences can just have a fun time.

        When you meet the right girl, the emotional connection is way stronger than usual, which is a big plus.

        It’s more of a fringe benefit than a main draw. More direct results with “noFap” [] ..


      • The first paragraph was what I was wondering about. Yea my interest in now piqued ,might have to give it a shot, thanks for reply.


      • This probably goes without saying [at least to Tim] but effects will vary considerably depending on whether one has a full/empty stomach prior to dosing [and, to a diminishing extent, afterwards].
        Anyone planning to follow Todd down the rabbit hole of self-experimentation should keep that in mind.


  8. I think the benefits of LSD microdosing are overstated.

    Not too long ago, I finished a well-powered 120-day-long randomized blind self-experiment using ~15ug microdoses. I analyzed metrics including a daily self-rating of mood and daily scores from spaced repetition memorization software. There was a negative decrease in the self-rating which almost reached significance, no effect on the memory scores, and no effect on the other metrics except a sleep metric.

    This is, as far as I or Fadiman know, the only such self-experiment ever done. Since it was methodologically infinitely better than any of the anecdotes circulated online…


    • Threshold effects start for most subjects around 30mcg. Half a fluid ounce of beer seems “overrated” also.

      The dose might make the poison, but it also makes the medicine.


      • You do understand the concept of ‘microdosing’, right? LSD microdosing is not done with >30ug doses. At doses that high, you begin tripping. Normal LSD microdosing is done with <=15ug, which is the range my microdoses fell into.


      • The word microdosing is just a placeholder for the concept of taking enough to feel something but not so much that you go trippy.

        So a statement like “microdosing is not done with >30mcg doses” is not as concrete as you make it out to be. Everyone’s tolerance is different.

        If your “microdose” experiment was using amounts that were too small to even really register, perhaps next time you could try using a bit more.


      • Tim,

        I’ve heard you say this many times regarding drugs: “Do your homework.” To me, there are a ton of studies on every drug, and conflicting studies at that.

        I’d love to see a post about your process for researching a drug and sifting through the immense amount of studies and forum hear-say. For example – you hear about Provigil for the very first time and it sounds interesting. How do you “do your homework”?



      • I’ve certainly found 5-Meo-DMT very interesting. Not entirely hallucinogenic though, and much more ‘power’ than a ‘glory’. Bufo Alvarius venom is a particularly interesting source of it. However, if you really want to hit the reset switch, pure DMT is a much more engaging prospect..

        Its nice to see you like my site Liam ( :)


      • I heard you on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and you were great. Just recently, Joe had a discussion with Stanley Krippner about topics similar to this. Hopefully, both Joe and yourself can touch base again and delve into this subject. Any plans on going back on his podcast?


    • Everyone has different sensitives and your decision making should involve more than just reading some random guy’s comment on a blog entry.

      With that being said, the point of a true micro-dose is to avoid hallucinating entirely and instead enjoy a state of enhanced creativity and inspiration. Using resources like , if you can determine the proper small/threshold dose, a spotter shouldn’t be needed.

      Obviously be smart, don’t drive, stay lowkey in your apartment, and other disclaimers. Its better to start small and work your way up / get comfortable than the alternative.


  9. Wow! These are along the same note taking style I have, but I must remember to reference some of the sources, thoughts and dates.


  10. I just did a Google search and I’m still confused as to what this is. Anyone care to explain this further?

    I have the understanding that it is about taking notes on your life. Kind of like a a timelog, but extremely detailed?



    • Hi Benny,

      Here is an example of what Quantified Self promotes. Years ago right out of college when I got my first gig in Silicon Valley as a sales rep working the phones I started to feel like my life was being wasted. It was one of those existential breakdown moments. To compensate and prove to myself that my work was not the cause of my sadness I performed a 30 day mood study. The design was as follows (using a website called MercuryApp which saved my data through text message):

      – Receive a text 3 times per day randomly.
      – Reply to text with a number between 1 and 5 with one equaling extremely bad mood and five equaling a fantastic mood.
      – Include any relevant information after the number that may help me understand my mood (recently drank coffee, got X hours of sleep, currently stoned, etc.)

      After the 30 day study and analyzing the 90 data points I concluded that my job didn’t suck as much as I thought it did. In fact at the end of the day my job wasn’t strongly correlated with a low mood score. The strongest correlation was with the amount of sleep I got the night(s) before! This was a complete surprise to me and I was able to discover my optimal sleep amount to optimize my emotional well being.

      Quantified Self is about using data to improve yourself. Fitness and health are almost always hot topics at QS events because the information those categories describe are often easily measured and quantified. Through the data you collect you can draw conclusions and hopefully become a better person.

      A word of caution. It is VERY easy to go overboard with quantifying your life. I am a firm believer that life was meant to be lived and not over analyzed. Use the ideas behind quantified self as a tool to answer specific questions, but not to drive your entire life.


  11. I have to give you a big thanks for introducing me to Quantified Self. Back in 2010 when I had just moved to the Bay Area to chase my startup dream you referred to QS in a blog post and after a quick google search I found them on To say I was hooked was an understatement. One of the best tangible changes in my life that came directly from your advice (along with Stoicism).

    K, warm fuzzy moment over. Back to work in startup land!


  12. Tim:

    Be careful with LSD stuff. We need you. I read somewhere in legal case law that after an individual takes LSD more than 7 times that he is defined as legally insane by US Federal Court.

    BTW, Quantified Self very intriguing. Have fun with it…



  13. I’m afraid your research on LSD as a cognitive enhancer is a little late. Timothy Leary did the pioneering work in the Sixties and going by the usual lethargy in science, it means that his research won’t be taken seriously for another twenty years or so. There’s tons of stuff written about it if you’re looking for a head start


    • This is pure genius… again.
      So just like 4HWW was a game changer for me a couple years ago I imagine that Quantified Self will soon become my obsession of choice. Thank you Tim for bringing the rest of us with you on your journey.