Full of Vodka,
Blessed are you among cocktails.
Pray for me now,
And at the hour of my death,
Which I hope is soon.
The experience wasn't simply about the easy pleasure of undeserved expertise. When the nice neuroscientists put the electrodes on me, the thing that made the earth drop out from under my feet was that for the first time in my life, everything in my head finally shut the fuck up.
The experiment I underwent was accelerated marksmanship training on a simulation the military uses. I spent a few hours learning how to shoot a modified M4 close-range assault rifle, first without tDCS and then with. Without it I was terrible, and when you're terrible at something, all you can do is obsess about how terrible you are. And how much you want to stop doing the thing you are terrible at.
Then this happened:
The 20 minutes I spent hitting targets while electricity coursed through my brain were far from transcendent. I only remember feeling like I had just had an excellent cup of coffee, but without the caffeine jitters. I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. From there on, I just spent the time waiting for a problem to appear so that I could solve it.
It was only when they turned off the current that I grasped what had just happened. Relieved of the minefield of self-doubt that constitutes my basic personality, I was a hell of a shot. And I can't tell you how stunning it was to suddenly understand just how much of a drag that inner cacophony is on my ability to navigate life and basic tasks. [...]
Me without self-doubt was a revelation. There was suddenly this incredible silence in my head; I've experienced something close to it during 2-hour Iyengar yoga classes, but the fragile peace in my head would be shattered almost the second I set foot outside the calm of the studio. I had certainly never experienced instant zen in the frustrating middle of something I was terrible at. There were no unpleasant side effects. The bewitching silence of the tDCS lasted, gradually diminishing over a period of about three days. The inevitable reintroduction of self-doubt and inattention to my mind bore heartbreaking similarities to the plot of Flowers for Algernon.
I hope you can sympathize with me when I tell you that the thing I wanted most acutely for the weeks following my experience was to go back and strap on those electrodes. I also started to have a lot of questions. Who was I apart from the angry little bitter gnomes that populate my mind and drive me to failure because I'm too scared to try? And where did those voices come from? Some of them are personal history, like the caustically dismissive 7th grade science teacher who advised me to become a waitress. Some of them are societal, like the hateful ladymag voices that bully me every time I look in a mirror. Invisible narrative informs all my waking decisions in ways I can't even keep track of.
What would a world look like in which we all wore little tDCS headbands that would keep us in a primed, confident state free of all doubts and fears? Wouldn't you wear the shit out of that cap? I certainly would. I'd wear one at all times and have two in my backpack ready in case something happened to the first one.
Well, thanks to Supervisor Weiner's economic impact study, we now know that nightlife is worth $4.2 billion. The SFPD budget is $421 million. So there's that.
Nightlife: Fun plus jobs
The undisputed cultural importance of nightlife isn't the whole story. Nightlife is a significant economic contributor to San Francisco. It creates jobs, particularly for working-class and young people. It generates tax revenue that helps fund Muni, health clinics, and parks. It allows creative entrepreneurs to start businesses. It generates tourism. It draws foot traffic into neighborhoods to the benefit of other neighborhood businesses. [...]
Nightlife in San Francisco generates $4.2 billion a year in spending, with $1 billion of that amount coming from bars, clubs, performance venues, and art spaces. Some 48,000 people are employed in nightlife businesses, and these businesses contribute $55 million a year in local taxes. On March 5, we'll announce the full results of the study at a hearing of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.
This data will help us make smart public policy around nightlife. In the past, those decisions frequently have been driven by anecdote and over-reaction to isolated events. Trouble near a small number of nightclubs? The city responds by making it difficult for all nightclubs to operate, even those with excellent safety records and despite the dramatic improvement in the Entertainment Commission's oversight. Or, the city goes even further and proposes requiring all clubs, even small ones, to scan ID cards of everyone who enters. [...]
Entertainment is under pressure in San Francisco. There are neighborhoods with significant friction between housing and nightlife. Some of that friction results from a small number of problem venues. Other times, a good venue is jeopardized for simply conducting its business within the limits of San Francisco law -- for example, a single neighbor got Slim's shut down for a few weeks for noise, despite the club's compliance with our noise ordinance.
We also continue to have bizarre Planning Code restrictions that undermine entertainment, such as the Mission Alcohol Special Use District, which makes it difficult or impossible to start creative new businesses in the Mission if alcohol is involved. This provision almost prevented a new bowling alley from locating at 17th and South Van Ness. Similarly, some are concerned that the Western SoMa Plan, as currently written, will undermine nightlife on 11th Street by surrounding clubs with new housing and by reducing the number of venues.
There's going to be a rally and hearing at City Hall on Mon Mar 5 at Noon to officially release the study, if you're interested in being a part of that photo op.
Danilo Stern-Sapad writes code for a living, but don't call him a geek. He wears sunglasses and blasts 2Pac while programming. He enjoys playing Battle Shots - like the board game Battleship with liquor - at the office. He and his fellow coders at Los Angeles startup BetterWorks are lavished with attention by technology-industry recruiters desperate for engineering talent.
"We got invited to a party in Malibu where there were naked women in the hot tub," said Stern-Sapad, 25. "We're the cool programmers."
A poster recently displayed at a Stanford University career fair by San Francisco social-media analytics company Klout tried to woo computer-science graduates by asking: "Want to bro down and crush code? Klout is hiring."