The first week of July 2015 will forever be known as the week the internet freaked out about a bunch of trippy images generated by a snoozing computer. Please. In my day we didn't need Google to help us see melting dog faces with six eyes that are actually snails with centipedes crawling on their shells. We did it the old-fashioned way.
It's the weekend, you've made it through the long week and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze, etc. column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. And sometimes other things.
If you're like me, you probably saw the images generated by Google's "neural network" this week and thought, man, that looks exactly like that time I ate a handful of mushrooms and wandered around outside for a few days. And there's a very good reason for that.
The way that Google's Deep Dream system works is by feeding an image through artificial neurons and tapping an AI to start to look for certain recognisable patterns, using images stored in the computer's memory as a guide.
When you ingest psilocybin, your own neurological network does kind of the same thing. You feed it an image with your eyes and your brain starts to make connections between what you're actually looking at and all the other images stored in your own subconscious.
But here's where your brain wins over Google. Your brain is always making connections — it's really smart! — and when you're sober those connections are very orderly and predictable. When psilocybin enters the picture, however, your neurons go nuts, making many, many more connections.
This is your brain, and this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?
A study published last year that looked at MRIs of people's brains before and after they were injected with a dose of psilocybin uncovered something even more interesting. It turns out that brains on mushrooms aren't just going haywire, they're making connections between neurons that are not normally connected, as study author Giovanni Petri told Wired:
In mathematical terms, said Petri, normal brains have a well-ordered correlation state. There's not much cross-linking between networks. That changes after the psilocybin dose. Suddenly the networks are cross-linking like crazy, but not in random ways. New types of order emerge.
"We can speculate on the implications of such an organisation," wrote the researchers, who were led by neurobiologist Paul Expert of King's College London. "One possible by-product of this greater communication across the whole brain is the phenomenon of synaesthesia" — the experience, common during psychedelic experiences, of sensory mix-up: tasting colours, feeling sounds, seeing smells, and so on.
So there you go. Your own mind can generate imagery just as wacky Google's Deep Dream — maybe better! — AND it will start to feed those images throughout all your other senses, too. You just need to give it some mushrooms.
PS. Drugs are illegal and no one should do them. If you do, just try not to tweet about it.