The Download: corruption in China’s chip sector and VR’s psychedelic experiments

by Massimo Barnett
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The news: China’s chipmaking industry has descended into chaos, with at least four top executives associated with a state-owned semiconductor fund recently arrested on corruption charges. It’s an explosive turn of events that could force the country to fundamentally rethink how it invests in chip development.

Why it matters: The four executives are past or present employees of the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, nicknamed the “Big Fund,” which was established in 2014 to build a supply chain of chips made in China, thus reducing reliance on the US and its allies. The fact that the fund was driven by a political mission and not financial interests made it ripe for corruption.

What’s next:
Analysts say the latest investigations may push China to manage semiconductor funding with more precision and professional knowledge. The country was forced to learn by trial and error, meaning more targeted investments into specific companies would be a logical next step—coupled with a new boss for the Big Fund. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

The news: After a near-death experience, artist and computational molecular physicist David Glowacki has worked to recapture the hallucinatory transcendence he felt. A VR experience called Isness-D is his latest effort. And on four key indicators used in studies of psychedelics, the program showed the same effect as a medium dose of LSD or psilocybin (the main psychoactive component of “magic” mushrooms).

How it works: Isness-D is designed for groups of four to five people, with each participant represented as a diffuse cloud of smoke with a ball of light right about where a person’s heart would be. The experience involves participants gathering in the same spot in the virtual space to overlap their diffuse bodies, making it impossible to tell where each person begins and ends. The resulting sense of deep connectedness and ego reduction mirrors feelings commonly brought about by a psychedelic experience.

Why it matters: Given that Isness-D elicited responses indistinguishable from those associated with medium doses of psychedelics, it could help to alleviate the symptoms of mental health conditions obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression, all of which psychedelic-assisted therapy has been remarkably good at easing. Read the full story.

—Hana Kiros

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