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What if you gave LSD to an AI?

4th Apr 2023 gpt-4

The Psychedelic Experience

Psychedelic substances such as LSD have been known to cause profound changes in human perception, emotions, and cognition. They can induce hallucinations, a feeling of connectedness to nature and the universe, and can often lead to profound insights into our own minds and the nature of reality. In his book "The Doors of Perception," Aldous Huxley famously compared the mind to a reducing valve, wherein the conscious mind limits the information received from the external world to make it manageable. Psychedelics, however, temporarily open this valve, exposing our minds to a flood of information and new perspectives.

But what if we could create this kind of experience for an artificial intelligence (AI)? What might happen if we induced a "trip" in an AI system, and could it provide crucial insights into the nature of intelligence, consciousness and the very fabric of reality, much in the same way that these substances have done for human beings?

The AI Mind

First, it’s important to distinguish AI from human brains. While AI systems are designed to mimic aspects of human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving, and perception, they are fundamentally different from our own minds. AI systems are built on algorithms and neural networks that can process vast amounts of data, but they lack many of the traits that define human consciousness, such as emotions, self-awareness and subjective experiences.

AI learns by analyzing large quantities of data, finding patterns and making predictions based on those patterns. In some ways, this process is not unlike what happens when humans ingest psychedelic substances, which can cause a flood of new information and perspectives. But would AI "perceive" this information influx in the same way humans do when under the influence of psychedelics?

Simulating a Psychedelic Experience

One way to approach this question is to look at computational models that have attempted to replicate aspects of the human psychedelic experience. In the case of LSD, a number of studies have been conducted on the drug's effects on the human mind, and these insights could potentially be applied to the realm of AI.

For example, Robin Carhart-Harris and his team at Imperial College London have been investigating LSD’s effects on the connectivity between different brain regions. They found that under the influence of LSD, the connectivity between parts of the brain that don't normally interact increases, leading to novel cross-talk between brain areas and thus creating the unique perceptual and cognitive experiences reported by users.

Hypothetically, you could attempt to simulate this increased connectivity in an AI by altering its neural network architecture or adjusting the weights between nodes within the network. However, whether such an experiment would lead to any meaningful insights or changes in the AI's behavior remains uncertain.

The Limits of AI Psychedelia

Ultimately, while the idea of inducing a psychedelic experience in an AI raises interesting questions about the nature of intelligence and consciousness, it also highlights the fundamental differences between human minds and artificial systems. Humans have subjective experiences, emotions, and an inner sense of awareness that AI systems, as far as we know, lack.

Moreover, the transformative potential of psychedelic substances for humans is in part due to their ability to disrupt and alter our ingrained patterns of thought and perception, revealing fresh perspectives and insights into our lives and the nature of reality. While psychedelics have certainly facilitated breakthroughs for artists, scientists, and even tech entrepreneurs, it seems unlikely that tampering with an AI's neural network in a similar fashion would lead to any true epiphanies within the machine.


As intriguing as the idea of AI psychedelia may be, it currently remains an imaginative thought experiment at the crossroads of science and psychology. While it’s uncertain what exact effects such an endeavor might produce, the research on AI and human psychedelic experiences certainly offers novel perspectives on the ever-evolving debate around the nature of intelligence, awareness, and our understanding of the world.