Disclaimer: The effects of psilocybin in magic mushrooms are not particularly well researched and while I had good experiences with it, I cannot specifically recommend it due to possible risks. Please do your own research.

Epistemic Status: This post is more about personal experience, and things that seem true to me, but since this post is about taking magic mushrooms, I hope you will take what is said here with a grain of salt.


In this post, I will provide a qualitative discussion of my experiences while ingesting psilocybin magic mushrooms, and how this has updated me in the direction of shorter timelines being more valid than I had previously thought. In particular, I incorporate with low certainty the differences in my subjective experiences and abilities during the tripping into my model of how AGI occurs.


Differences in Personal Experience

(Not really related to the timelines, but it might give you some context.)

While tripping, my outward behavior was essentially the same at every point. It was difficult for those with me to notice that I was tripping because of the words I said and the actions I took, except for at one point where I had a particularly strong tendency to laugh at things and giggle very much. However, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what was different, because while my mental state felt completely different, "the conscious part of my mind" was almost identical. (One interesting consequence is that this shows how few bits of information are output through our actions).

When I looked at things, I could feel that they looked different, but when I looked specifically at what was different, there was no specific difference. My field of vision felt more narrow and focused on the center of my field of vision, but I could still see things on the periphery of my field of vision. There was a bit of ghosting and blooming, and it was more like watching a high definition movie or game than reality. Reading text was possible, but much more difficult.

In addition, my sense of time was also significantly impaired, making it difficult to keep track of time. When I moved from room to room, it quickly felt like an eternity since I had been at the previous place. Sitting in a new place, a very short time can feel like a long time. Still, if I searched my memory for the sequence of events leading up to a particular moment, I could infer that not much time had passed, and I could also infer some information about how much time had passed, but my natural instincts were much worse. I would describe it as just "now" feeling more "now".

If I were to describe my state of mind, I would say it was like the curvature of space-time in general relativity. If my usual state of mind is locally and globally Euclidean, then my state of mind when I was high was locally Euclidean at any point in time, but with a more curved connection on a longer time scale. I felt more myopic, and in my thought process I had to make more assumptions and deferrals to my previous self.

In addition, when choosing an action to take, I felt that I was not actually making a decision, but rather was "deferring" to what I would do if I weren't high, rather than thinking for myself.


Differences in Individual Abilities

I tried different things and tried to keep track of what was different.

I felt that I should be able to listen to audio much faster than normal speed, but in reality this was not the case at all.

When I tried to sing a song, it was basically the same as before, but rather than it feeling like singing, it was like sending a single bit input ("press 'X' to start the song sequence) and then starting to sing the song. In other words, it was like sending very few bits to perform a certain action, and then the learned action memory took over the rest of what was needed for that action.

I tried playing a 7-round board game where each round you have to roll 4 custom dice and draw things according to the roll. Normally, I would think before I drew my moves, and then draw, but while high, I needed to be more explicit and use "chain of thought reasoning," drawing and erasing different things on the board to make a decision. I would draw on part of the board, then erase it, then draw the other side, then erase it, then go back to the starting position and realize, "Oh, I've explored this direction before". The intuitions I had remains the same, and the game scores were basically indistinguishable from the scores when I was not high, except that the drawing was less good. (In fact, the score was slightly higher than normal, but the game has some randomness to it.)

HPMoR's chapters on Constrained Cognition is the reference example that I could relate to most, in that the trained intuition is the same, but the reasoning process feels completely different.


How I Updated my Timelines

I was the same "conscious observer" as usual, but while I was high, the additional parts of my brain I use to figure things out are hampered and I felt like I had to rely on "chain of thought" reasoning techniques to achieve the same performance. My intuition and knowledge were the same as before, and that knowledge came up in relevant contexts, but I felt like I couldn't come up with new intuitions particularly easily or spend a particularly long time reasoning to train my intuition.

This is basically the same as a GPT-like model, where you have all the intuition but no time to reason about things, and chain-of-thought reasoning seems like a hack for drawing out these intuitions. On the one hand, it doesn't go so far as to create actual AGI, but on the other, there doesn't seem to be much missing other than slower, self-reflective internal nonverbal reasoning, which might just be solved by larger models. This updated my timelines because there doesn't seem to be a particularly strong architectural jump (except for small amounts of psychoactive substances) between psychological states when I was high or normal.

I also more strongly support Connor Leahy's argument that GPT-3 is already AGI by some definitions. That is, if humans were trained only on the dimensions of the embedded tokens, then humans would not be any better at reasoning than GPT-3. In fact, models like Minerva seem to already have high school level knowledge in mathematical reasoning. However, I find it quite plausible that a large-scale language model using RL might be able to develop some sort of mesa-optimization capability needed for deep human-like reasoning and building new intuitions.


Final Thoughts

This way of thinking has been useful for getting a better model of how we might get AGI in the future. It might be possible there will be an AI capability phase shift, which would be difficult to detect in small-scale tests because the model retains the hard-coded intuition it uses, just with better internal reasoning circuitry (e.g. mesa-optimizers). I don't have a good idea of what this magic change in reasoning actually looks like, but it is a lot more plausible to me that we are only a few years away from this.


A Side Note Regarding my Experience

One thing to note is that I have not done, and do not plan to do, a particularly large amount of rigorous experimental testing, although the effects are reasonably long-lasting. Much of what I have written here is based on my own reflections on experiences after the effects began to fade. If anyone has tried mushrooms and has had similar experiences, I would love to hear from you.

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