Google and AI Digital Shrooms

March 30, 2018

Magic mushrooms are a delightful way to experience reality as well as hurt your body and become addicted to drugs.  They were a big symbol of the 1960s-70s counterculture.  Beyond their hallucinogenic properties, medical experts discovered they have medicinal uses too.  Mushroom enthusiast loves the mold, but there might be a way for them to trip without breaking any laws.  The International Business Times reported that “Hallucination Machine Uses Google AI, Gives Magic Mushroom-Like ‘Trip’ Without Drugs.”

The possibilities of virtual reality have been imagined for years, but only now can we fully begin to explore the possibilities.  One way researchers are testing virtual reality is with the Hallucination Machine, built on Google AI and uses a virtual reality headset.   The Hallucination Machine allows users to “trip” without the drugs’ harmful effects. Scientists are fascinated with hallucinations and hallucinogens because they love to study the brain’s processes when it “trips out.”

Sussex University’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science published a paper in the Scientific Reports journal discussing how the Hallucination Machine compares to real drug-induced hallucinations.

Hallucinations help scientists focus their study on areas of the brain that are affected when there is an altered reality. Using hallucinogens alters the chemical composition of the brain, which makes it hard to isolate just the visual effects. So the team used Google’s DeepDream system, which uses a neural network approach to try and identify patterns and features in images. You can actually try it out for yourself online.  DeepDream works by creating patterns and over emphasizing on certain recurring details that helps put our brain into perception overdrive, so much so that it starts to imagine stuff that isn’t actually there.

The Sackler Center conducted two tests.  The first exposed participants to DeepDream and users experienced hallucinations similar to those caused by magic mushrooms.  The second tested participants’ time perception, but the Hallucination Machine cannot recreate that psychedelic experience yet.

Replicating the magic mushroom’s tripping experience is still in the development phases, but give it a few more years and this will probably be a popular virtual reality program.

Whitney Grace, March 30, 2018


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