Welcome to Afterglow, a newsletter that will change your mind. My name is Charles Bliss and I'm a psychedelic journalist from Norwich, UK. Β 

This week, I sat down with artificial intelligence language model ChatGPT to discuss whether brain-computer interfaces could simulate psychedelic experiences.

You've probably heard about ChatGPT.

The artificial-intelligence chatbot, developed by research company OpenAI, mimics the structure and grammar of writing with an algorithm trained on an immensely vast pool of online text and internet data.

Released in November 2022, ChatGPT is based on Generative Pre-trained Transformer technology, a large-scale language model that learns to predict patterns in sequences of data β€” but its results are not always accurate and its sources are not fact-checked.

I wanted to know what the chatbot had to say about the psychedelic experience. This interview is split into two and the second instalment will feature in the next edition of Afterglow. The interview has been edited for clarity and length, and has been rearranged, but ChatGPT's responses have not been changed.


What do you know about psychedelics?

Psychedelics are a class of psychoactive substances that can produce profound alterations in perception, mood, and cognition. Some of the most well-known psychedelics include LSD, psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), mescaline (found in peyote cactus), and DMT (found in ayahuasca).

Psychedelics have been used for centuries by indigenous cultures for spiritual and healing purposes. In more recent times, research has suggested that psychedelics may have therapeutic potential for treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.

It's important to note that psychedelics can be dangerous if not used responsibly, and can also produce intense and unpredictable experiences that may not be suitable for everyone. As such, it's important to approach these substances with caution and under the guidance of trained professionals.

Have you ever had a psychedelic experience?

As an artificial intelligence language model, I don't have personal experiences or emotions like humans do, so I have not had any psychedelic experiences. I cannot choose to have a psychedelic experience or express a preference about it.


Could AI generate a psychedelic experience?

Artificial intelligence can simulate or create visual and auditory experiences that might resemble some of the perceptual effects of psychedelics. However, it's important to note that a true psychedelic experience is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon that involves not only changes in perception but also changes in mood, cognition, and sense of self.

While AI can generate visual and auditory stimuli, it is not currently capable of replicating the full range of subjective experiences that people report during a psychedelic experience, such as feelings of transcendence, unity, and ineffable insights.

Moreover, the use of technology to artificially induce or enhance psychedelic experiences raises a number of ethical and safety concerns, such as the potential for inducing negative psychological effects or bypassing the natural learning process that can occur during a psychedelic experience. As such, it's important to approach the use of technology for altering consciousness with caution and careful consideration.

How could the psychedelic experience be represented within an artificial intelligence language model?

There are a few ways in which the psychedelic experience could be represented within an AI language model:

Providing information: One way an AI language model can represent the psychedelic experience is by providing accurate and reliable information about the various substances, their effects, risks, and benefits.

Simulating visual and auditory effects: An AI language model could simulate some of the visual and auditory effects of psychedelics, such as patterns, colours, and sounds, using machine learning algorithms to generate visual and auditory stimuli that resemble those reported during psychedelic experiences.

Modelling cognitive and emotional changes: An AI language model could also model some of the cognitive and emotional changes that occur during a psychedelic experience, such as altered perception of time, heightened sense of interconnectedness, and increased empathy. This could be done by analysing patterns in natural language data from users who have reported their psychedelic experiences and then generating responses that reflect these patterns.


How would brain-computer interfaces enable more realistic simulations of the psychedelic experience?

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are devices that enable direct communication between the brain and a computer or other external device. By detecting and interpreting the electrical signals generated by the brain, BCIs can be used to control various functions, such as movement, communication, and perception.

One potential application of BCIs in the context of the psychedelic experience is to use them to detect and interpret the neural activity associated with different aspects of the experience, such as changes in visual perception, mood, and sense of self. This information could then be used to generate more realistic and personalised simulations of the psychedelic experience.

Advanced simulations, such as virtual and augmented reality, could also be used to create more immersive and realistic simulations of the psychedelic experience. By combining advanced graphics and audio with sensors that track the user's movements and biometric data, these simulations could provide a more complete and interactive experience that closely resembles the real thing.

However, it's important to note that these technologies are still in the early stages of development and there are a number of technical and ethical challenges that need to be addressed before they can be used for simulating or enhancing the psychedelic experience. Additionally, it's important to consider the potential risks and benefits of using technology to alter consciousness, and to approach these technologies with caution and careful consideration.

🎬 Video

Watch my new video, which explores the first time that a Beatle experienced the death of a loved one. This is the first episode in a new series of obituaries which will explore the lives and deaths of people connected with The Beatles.

In this video, we celebrate the life of George Toogood Smith β€” John Lennon’s uncle and surrogate father β€” who had a profound impact on John’s childhood and personality.

🀯 Mind at Large

A breakdown of mind-blowing ideas I encountered this week:

πŸ“– Article – Katie MacBride reports for Inverse on the understudied potential benefits of mescaline.

🐦 Tweet – Psilocybin Access Rights (PAR) has launched an advertising campaign in London that asks: β€œCould magic mushrooms be medicine?” The public can sign a petition requesting that the UK government reschedules psilocybin so that the drug is more easily accessible to researchers.

"A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human."
Alan Turing

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