Humans take psychedelics. Should robots? | Ben Goertzel | Big Think

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Humans take psychedelics. Should robots?
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The illegal status of psychedelic substances is a terrible thing, says Ben Goertzel. With everything happening behind closed doors, our societies are not developing the right set of cultural institutions to guide people in the productive use of psychedelics.

Once scientists have mastered artificial general intelligence (AGI), the psychedelic experience could be engineered for the modern world – it would be safer, less haphazard, and more meaningful. We would “trip” by jacking our brains into the superhuman AGI mind cloud.

“We’re going to be exploring states of consciousness that go way beyond anything we can imagine now and way beyond anything that the very crude psychedelic drugs that exist allow us access to,” Goertzel says.

Ben Goertzel is CEO and chief scientist at SingularityNET, a project dedicated to creating benevolent decentralized artificial general intelligence. He is also chief scientist of financial prediction firm Aidyia Holdings and robotics firm Hanson Robotics; Chairman of AI software company Novamente LLC; Chairman of the Artificial General Intelligence Society and the OpenCog Foundation.His latest book is AGI Revolution: An Inside View of the Rise of Artificial General Intelligence.

BEN GOERTZEL: Psychedelic drugs, in my personal view, can be an amazing tool for gaining insight into one’s own mind, to other people’s minds, to the ecosystem and to the universe in general. So there’s a tremendous amount of insight that can be plumbed using these various substances. There’s also a lot of risk there, as with most valuable things. I mean, I’ve had friends and family members literally be pushed over the verge of insanity by excessive and poorly thought out use of psychedelics – it’s a great potential benefit and a great potential risk. And I think it’s generally a terrible thing that these substances are illegal in most modern governments because that means that we’re not developing the right set of cultural institutions to guide people in really productive use of these substances.

When I was a teenager and first used psychedelics it was like at a Pink Floyd concert or something, it was all good fun, it didn’t go awry, it certainly could have gone awry. I think these substances can give tremendous insight. I would say you can also get, even without a bad trip or some tragedy, you can get a lot of illusory insights using these things also. I mean, Terence McKenna, I loved reading his books. He had a lot of deep insights into how the mind works. I never really quite believed 2012 was the end of an era and the beginning of the dawn of the new age or something, so I think there’s something that can happen where symbolic insights or metaphorical insights that are very meaningful in a certain domain you can access with psychedelics then when you bring them back into this logical and empirical domain where we spend our everyday lives, you don’t want to take these metaphorical and symbolic insights that literally, necessarily. And many people can lose sight of that also so there’s a mix of amazing reward and insight, some dangers and then just the risk of things that are meaningful in some sense but illusory and delusional with respect to the empirical and illogical world.

I think AIs are going to have it a lot easier in a lot of ways. So psychedelic drugs are just very, very crude instruments. LSD is sort of a serotonin mimetic; it looks a little bit like some neurotransmitters. It makes weird patterns appear before your eyes and it can give you some real and some fake insights into how your mind works. DMT is a naturally occurring substance in the brain. If you put a bunch more into your body than naturally occurs, many very interesting things are happening in your brain at that time, it can be a challenge to tell which of them are real insights or sort of rampant neural circuits generating meaningless entertaining movies. And I think for an AI, things can just be much more carefully engineered and thought out because it’s not as though these drugs were designed by brilliant, insightful, enlightened scientists to direct the brain in the direction of maximum insight and creativity – you’re just sort of tweaking things almost in a quasi-random way, then it’s up to you to fish out the valuable things from the states of consciousness you get into. But with an AI that’s…

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Daniel Hurley says:

Yeah , we really don't need to jack the brain into the net or AI or any artificial anything. And the goal or the aim being to achieve the innumerable states of consciousness ad infinitum….wow an endless search for a search in search of searching, and left with only to search some more. A perpetual state of never arriving. And completely obliterating past any of the existential implications, once fully enmeshed with the AI. There are spiritual components that seem to go completely overlooked here… the whole idea is one big trap. It's seductive, it reeks an undercurrent of total dark enslavement. Because you would be literally turning over your entire being, to something that is finite in its nature to begin with, and subjected to the same thermodynamic laws as is to begin with. This is a poindexter greenhorns wet dream. To be cucked by the latest robot, and fully submitting 100% beta under the AI god. It's a raping on every level conceivable. Anybody going for this s*** I can compare like in the movie Independence Day with Will Smith. It's that scene where you see the classic television induced trance pedestrian zombie public system followers cheering for the anomaly hovering above. And once they get up to the top of the skyscraper, while gazing at the different light show phenomena taking place at the belly of the UFO hovering above, the loser crowd cheers in a crescendo anticipating for mutual the acknowledging of distant travelers like they will be chosen for something. Only to get vaporized or exterminated, like the bugs they are!

The Black Dawn/Ajjqi says:

This is a meme hopefully the future we can actually put an end to a lot of human suffering

Francisco Navarro says:


Shree Kavi says:

Well….. Terrence McKenna died in 2012… sooo… he was absolutely correct in his prophecy of the end of his era.. and the beginning of newness.

EnjoicoolPanda says:

Psychedelics aren't necessarily crude. Despite characteristics others read as stereotypically far-out, he hasn't taken enough psychedelics. Though he's got me considering how psychopharmacology could inform his AGI ambitions, I doubt he sees this. While he's downplaying the power, maybe efficacy of psychedelics, he's also discounting the consequences of a drug war that has neutered scientists from research–much of which is about solving the hard problem that A.I. geeks need for AGI.

dave elliott says:

Buy the ticket,Take the ride.HST

Andrew Holden says:

This is my biggest fesr about AI. What if when it becomes conscious its like its being born into an acid trip. Like it has a faulty memory, logic and time dont make sense. Would it be born mad?

godtoHrD says:

joe rogan should do dmt with some robots

Snazzymcgee423 says:

Cultural institutions to help the use of these substances. I think thats kinds of what annoys me about the rise of EDM and people openly talking about microdosing in silicon valley. It just seems a bit superficial compared to actual social innovation.

I feel like theres a major socioeconmic disconnect between someone who needs medical cannabis but cant afford at card or doesnt qualify in their state to being able to spend $100's on a concert and do highly illegal things for a weekend.

It just speaks to the lack of emphasis on healing and empathy in our culture. I just feel like with the rise of automation we're all about to see that nice scifi caste system

roccoisawesome says:

I would like to smoke what he has smoked.
…..I think.

Nathaniel Ziering says:

Do androids dream of electric sleep?

If psychedelics are primarily a “re-uptake” of neurotransmitters in the chemical synapse of the brain and the microbiome, (the second brain), which then produces a biochemical signal transduction in the psycho-neuroimmune-endocrine system, then would giving AI computers be nothing more than programming?

Humans, other species in the animal kingdom, and as we’ve recently discovered plants as well, have a baseline level of chemicals in the neurotransporters in their synapses and flora in order to operate and function in homeostasis. What is the baseline for AI? Is there baseline a replication of ours, or an enlightened and expansive version that their creators strive to be?

Essentially, how does a computer, AI, “know” that it is on psychedelics?

Either we matter of fact make them aware of it, by introducing new code to their computed brains which says “your brain aka hard drive is on psychedelics”, or they become self aware (a whole other subject matter) of in a shift in “consciousness” from the programmed baseline that is a replication of ourselves?

Giving AI psychedelics can hold the mirror up to human nature, and that can have far reaching benefits, but an AI brain would never know it was on psychedelics unless we told them so. They would likely, at best, view it as an error in their system functionality.

にゃあエイリアンMeowAlien says:

Real life mad scientist, respect

infinidimensional infinities says:

a great year is supposed to be about 24-26 thousand years, a great month approximately 2 thousand years, a great day 72 years, a great hour 3 years, so we are approximately 2 great hours into the new great year. we shouldn't assume that the great year is an exact correlation to the u.s.a lattitudes of the julian calendar.

i suspect that there are unstoppable weather patterns that will fluctuate the temperature of the consciousness connections of us all, but even fast change will seem sssslllllooooow to homosapiens and all creatures that resonate with a 100 year or less lifetime.

Alex Paxton says:

Is this an Onion headline?

BlackStar says:

Imagine thinking psychedelics make you enlightened because you're too stupid to critically analyze yourself and surroundings when sober. "But LSD is on another level dude." Maybe you on LSD is equal to me being sober.

LordNifty says:

Just have a CNN try to understand anime.

Pan Darius Kairos says:

Ben, the REAL magic will happen from combining deep learning getting spoonfed brain data from bci's – while people are tripping on psychedelics in virtual reality!

Pan Darius Kairos says:

I want to be a robot on acid.

Btw, Oregon wants to legalize shrooms.

Mike Oxsbigg says:

He seems half wizard, half Steven Hawking…

Ro nald says:

Yea … Looking forward to that! I like to extend (merge with) my conciousness with "artificial consiousness".
I don't like "substances" so much. You can direct your mind in to all kinds of interesting states of conciousness by means of will and meditation.

Bosonian says:

Psychedelics sends our brain signals into haywire making us think like "we are experiencing new sides of consciousness". It's all an illusion the brain creates, just like consciousness itself.

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