By: Phil | 11-28-2017 | Science
Photo credit: Agsandrew |

Modified VR Deep Dream Is Virtual Hallucination Machine

We live in an increasing cyberpunk world these days. What was once solely the realm of twisted sci-fi horrors plucked straight out of William S. Burroughs or Philip K. Dick swiftly become commonplace. Something about the insidious way these technologies blend and mesh together to create a new landscape, can inspire thrill or dredge up depression. Sometimes perhaps, both. What better diabolus in machina to encapsulate our age? What better metaphor for the ever-shifting mirage of this cyberpunk paradise/prison we inhabit than the Hallucination Machine. A device that would fit perfectly into a plot from some dystopian nightmare.

What fuels the dazzling dreamscape of <a href="">the Hallucination Machine</a> is the ever-developing AI mind. The hallucinatory landscape is interfaced via a virtual reality headset. The experience yielded by a "trip" in the virtual reality dream world is touted as akin to the psychedelic experience. A fully, immersive experience that is not just a novel toy, but a possible exploratory means of kenning how our brain processes the impulses and information that will be construed as perception. Part of the goal has been stated to delve into the line between reality and hallucinations.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Introducing the Hallucination Machine: our new deep-dream VR platform, w <a href="">@ksk_S</a> <a href=""></a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#sccs</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Anil Seth (@anilkseth) <a href="">November 5, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Researchers at the Sussex University's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science in the UK aren't even convinced that there is a distinction between reality and hallucination. Consciousness <a href="">researchers like Dr. Charles Tart</a> have been theorizing that for decades.

Initial results from the, as yet unpublished, study suggest the machine's effects are comparative to taking classical psychedelics.

Part of what fuels the effect is Google's Deep Dream software. Deep Dream has been using its neural network to learn how to identify patterns and features in images. Iterating images and seeing patterns where there were none can be a feature of hallucinatory visions and is somewhat similar to the way Deep Dream works. Just like a human mind though, it can get hung up on certain things.

Since Deep Dream was initially trained by sampling an array of dog pictures, it tends to see canine features where there are none, emphasizing something that resembles some dog feature until it is apparently there.

"One thing people always ask us is why there are so many dogs," one of the Sackler team, cognitive neuroscientist David Schwartzman, told Oliver Moody at The Times.

Colors, loss of self, patterns appearing out of nothing. The visual effects and some other cognitive effects of the modified VR Deep Dream correlated closely with that of a 2013 study on the psilocybin experience.

If the idea of remote control of a hallucination machine doesn't creep you out yet, consider the fact that something of this type could be (hypothetically of course) combined with the Persinger Helmet, affectionately deemed the <a href="">"God Helmet." Persinger's device can purportedly simulate divine contact. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy is a condition that, oddly enough, can manifest in visions, hallucinations, delusions that are often spiritual, religious or metaphysical in nature.

The shocking truth is, home-brewed cerebral-electrical stimulation devices have been being used by biohackers for years now. Along with the development of devices like the Thync which operates by stimulating dopamine release by zapping the vagus nerve, a nerve that not only plays a key role in the gut-brain pathway. <a href="">The vagus nerve also acts on dopamine, the pleasure, focus, motivation and reward-feedback neurotransmitter.

Just the existing technologies used in coordination could likely create heavens or hells on earth in one's mind. Likely create inspiration, renewal, happiness or fear, madness, desperation, despair.

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Either way sounds like yet another Black Mirror technology come to life. I miss cyberpunk a lot more when it was fiction.

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