Team Member: Audrey Gordon
Instructor: Sara Johnson
Cover Graphic Illustration Credit: Audrey Gordon
This work originated as a course project: choose an emerging technology and forecast its impact in 2040. Working on a team of two, I used back-casting and future-casting methods to explore how psychedelic therapy might change the course of mental healthcare.
Project Phases
In order to project the future of psychedelic therapy, I first had to understand its past. Psychedelic use has had many different influences over several discrete periods, so I organized my research findings around both these axes by combining two frameworks. View the full trend matrix/era map mashup here.
Finding #1: Historical prevalence
Cultures across history have used psychedelics, but societal guide-rails are needed to prevent bad experiences.
Finding #2: perceptions of safety
Psychedelics are largely safe when used responsibly, but unregulated use has led to negative perception of these drugs (including legal prohibitions).
Finding #3: Societal effects
Despite these stereotypes, the discovery and proliferation of psychedelics had far-reaching cultural and industrial effects, ranging from 60's counterculture movements to (possibly) the birth of Silicon Valley.
Finding #4: Medical Use
Psychedelics are an effective way to treat mental illness and have the potential to revolutionize psychiatry.
Next, Audrey and I began examining the future of psychedelics. By drawing on our prior individual research, we created a deck of trend cards as well as a PESTLE analysis. 
One of the trend cards I contributed.
One of the trend cards I contributed.
Example PESTLE analysis slide.
Example PESTLE analysis slide.
You can also view the full trend deck and PESTLE analysis.
To futurecast psychedelic therapy, Audrey and I wrote sci-fi pieces combining two trends: teletherapy and pharmaceutical company involvement. 
Both our pieces included AI-facilitated drug delivery, so we decided to explore that idea through a psychedelic treatment AI named Dakota. Through backcasting, we were able to predict the systems and stakeholders that would need to be in place for Dakota to exist.
Learning #1: Today Meets Tomorrow
Effective speculative work requires not just a future vision, but a deep understanding of past and present trends through research.
Learning #2: adapting design methods
Design methods provide useful scaffolding for the creative process, but they don't have to be wholly prescriptive. Combining frameworks in this project allowed me greater freedom while still retaining rigor and structure in my process.
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