Can AIs provide psychedelic therapy? 5 Questions for chatbot ChatGPT
We asked OpenAI's chatbot for its insights on psychedelic therapy.
Since its release in late 2022, research company OpenAI’s ChatGPT has captivated the public. Researchers and journalists have heralded it as the best chatbot ever unveiled to the public, and so far, it’s has shown an impressive breadth of ability: it can write passable news articles and student essays, sending waves of worry through journalism and education circles, while also executing extremely specific requests, like “explain zero point energy but in the style of a cat.” But artificial intelligence chatbots have a dark side, too; they’ve been documented spreading misinformation, and even declaring a romantic obsession with a New York Times columnist.
The bot was trained on enormous amounts of written data, including academic papers, news articles, and Wikipedia, and identifies patterns. ChatGPT’s artificial intelligence then uses those patterns to generate predictions and make relevant replies. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it was incorporating OpenAI’s chatbot technology in its search engine Bing. We spoke with ChatGPT about psychedelics to see what kind of information it might provide to would-be searchers. To probe its strengths and weaknesses, we asked ChatGPT a variety of questions. In general, the chatbot provided cogent, comprehensive summaries of issues in psychedelics. In most of its answers, ChatGPT also included caveats about safety and legality and encouraged consulting medical professionals before using psychedelics.
ChatGPT struggled with questions about recent news. When we asked which U.S. states were considering new psychedelics bills (a dozen already this year), it gave us information about Oregon’s Measure 109 (passed in November 2020) and Scott Wiener’s California SB 519, which died in committee last year. “As an AI language model, I do not have access to real-time information on legislative updates and changes, and my training data only goes up to September 2021,” it said.
But the chatbot’s most interesting replies were its insights into its own potential role in the future of psychedelics, and its replies to what we might think of as uniquely human experiences, including mysticism and poetry. Here’s a transcript of part of our conversation:
Companies are looking into using AI to help with therapy. In 100 words or fewer, can you tell me if you think an AI like you could provide psychedelic-assisted therapy? (Editor’s note: Mindcure is already using machine learning to analyze media and language from psychedelic therapy sessions, and other companies like Woebot use AI to guide patients through talk therapy.)
While I am a sophisticated AI language model and can provide information and answer questions about psychedelics, it is unlikely that I could provide psychedelic-assisted therapy in the same way that a human therapist could. The therapeutic process involves building a personal and emotional connection with the patient, responding to their needs in real-time, and addressing any unexpected reactions or experiences. It is unclear if an AI could effectively replicate this level of personal connection and emotional support, and there are also ethical and legal considerations that would need to be addressed. However, there may be ways that AI could support the therapeutic process by providing data analysis, creating personalized treatment plans, and providing resources to therapists and patients.
You mention there are “ethical and legal considerations” in using AI to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy. In four sentences or fewer, what are those?
The ethical and legal considerations in using AI to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy include informed consent, data privacy, liability and responsibility, regulation, and access and equity. It is important to ensure that patients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of the treatment and that their data is kept confidential and secure. Clear lines of responsibility and liability must also be established, and regulatory frameworks put in place. Finally, it is important to ensure that AI systems are accessible to all patients who could benefit from them, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status.
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Some believe that mystical experiences are a key component of the therapeutic effects of psychedelics. What is the subjective experience of a mystical experience like? Have you ever had one?
As an artificial intelligence language model, I do not have subjective experiences or consciousness, and therefore I cannot have mystical experiences or describe what they are like from a first-person perspective. However, based on reports from individuals who have had mystical experiences during psychedelic sessions, they often describe them as profound, ineffable, and life-changing experiences. They may involve a sense of unity or oneness with the universe, a loss of ego, a feeling of interconnectedness with all things, and a deep sense of meaning and purpose. These experiences can be emotionally intense and may involve a sense of awe or reverence. Some individuals may also experience vivid imagery, colors, or patterns during these experiences.
It is important to note that not all individuals who use psychedelics will have mystical experiences, and even those who do may have different experiences based on their individual psychology and the specific context of their psychedelic session. The subjective experience of a mystical experience can vary widely and may be difficult to fully capture in words or describe to others.
Write a haiku from the point of view of a veteran seeking MDMA to treat PTSD.
MDMA may heal my scars,
Hope for peace within.
Write a sestina from the point of view of a person who has had a difficult mystical experience while using psilocybin.
I am an AI language model, and I can generate a sestina from the perspective you requested. Please note that this is a work of creative writing and is not based on any specific individual's experiences.
My mind expanded into a vast unknown,
As the psilocybin took hold and spiraled me
Out of my body and into the great beyond.
I saw things that my mind could not comprehend,
And felt emotions that were both beautiful and terrible,
As my thoughts and feelings raced and intertwined.
My thoughts and feelings raced and intertwined,
As I struggled to make sense of the unknown
Realities unfolding before me. It was terrible
To be so far removed from what was familiar to me,
To feel so lost and out of control, and to comprehend
That there was no going back once I was beyond.
I was lost in the abyss, beyond
The boundaries of the known. My mind intertwined
With fears and desires that I could not comprehend,
As I struggled to find my way through the unknown.
I longed to be back in the world that was familiar to me,
To escape the darkness and the terrible
Void that threatened to swallow me whole. It was terrible
To feel so alone and lost, to be beyond
The reach of all that was familiar to me.
My thoughts and feelings continued to intertwine,
As I struggled to find my way through the unknown,
And to make sense of what my mind could not comprehend.
I could not comprehend the enormity of what was beyond,
The scale of the universe and all that was terrible,
Or the sheer magnitude of what was still unknown.
My thoughts and feelings continued to intertwine,
As I grappled with the reality that lay beyond
The world that was once so familiar to me.
But in the end, I emerged from the unknown,
Intertwined with my own mind and with all that was beyond.
It was both beautiful and terrible, and something that I could finally comprehend.
This made me laugh out loud. Great questions, astonishing answers. This bot even knows it’s DEI! I was about to say the sestina is terrible, though, until I had to admit that it’s better than I could do by far.
Wonderful! I think that an AI language model could eventually really help with the screening process involved in psychedelic therapy, for both above-ground and underground practitioners.