The honeycomb lattice mentioned in the article resonated with me.
I’ll go out on a limb and share a personal anecdote: In high school I took magic mushrooms with my friends, and at one point in the experience the world disappeared and I saw an undulating fabric in a honeycomb pattern. In the center of each “hole” in the fabric was a link to a memory, a time and a place.
It was one of those images that was hard to forget - I can still recall it many, many years later.
In “Dragons of Eden” Carl Sagan muses that drugs might work in an analogous way to how night time brings out the stars. The stars are always there, but daylight masks them.
In a similar way I’ve often wondered if there was something to that geometry I saw.
Or perhaps it’s just my brain trying too hard to be poetic :P
The geometric shapes you see when hallucinating on things like psilocybin were studied in the 1920s by a guy named Heinrich Klüver. He called them form constants  , and the honeycomb pattern is one of them. They've been observed with mind-altering drugs, as well as near-death experiences, synesthesia and other extreme experiences.
Thanks for these links. Never did drugs but as a teenager I once had pneumonia and a 104F fever. The night before I got treated I was seeing some of the more organic shaped form constants with "demonic" overtones. (I put that in quotes because I was aware, even at the time, that it was just random patterns not anything real.) The first night after I got antibiotics with a still bad but lesser fever, I saw geometric form constants with happier overtones such as 100s of penguins dancing on chessboards or hexagons. I didn't know at the time that it had a name, but I theorized at the time that what I was experiencing was "pure numeric" or "pure geometric" qualia - that is, part of my brain was generating the message of seeing numerous things or geometrically aligned things, and other parts of my brain were ad libbing what it was that was numerous or arranged that way.
(As for how I got to that state: I was in Marines Corps training and we had sick call, but they said sick call is not for a cold or the sniffles. So the first few days I toughed it out. Eventually I realized no this is more serious; every morning after that I turned up for sick call and got turned away "you just have a cold, f--k off." Since I didn't have a physical injury to point to I just got lectures about malingering, while I was passing out on my feet everywhere and coughing up quarts of green goop. Eventually I just refused to stand down from the sick call until they took me to the corpsman, where it turned out I had a bad case of pneumonia and a 104F fever. They gave me antibiotics and sent me back (walking, alone) to my barracks, did not even keep me for observation.)
I've always been under the impression that consciousness is actually a bunch of brain activity competing for attention and that one thing at a time is selected/blessed to be the highlight of one's attention.
The addition of drugs sort of pulls back the curtain on what other things may be just under the mark, lurking beneath your "default" consciousness.
>I've always been under the impression that consciousness is actually a bunch of brain activity competing for attention
This reminds me of one my favorite quotes from Westworld (HBO, 2017)
"There is no threshold that makes us greater than the sum of our parts, no inflection point at which we become fully alive. We can't define consciousness because consciousness does not exist. Humans fancy that there's something special about the way we perceive the world and yet, we live in loops as tight and as closed as the [robots] do, seldom questioning our choices - content, for the most part, to be told what to do next." - Dr. Ford (character)
One of the things I really love about marijuana is that while it mentally alters your state, it leaves you completely coherent, where you can still be perceptive and reflective. For me it's like a deep, consistent meditation if I relax and really focus on how I'm "thinking." Perceptually, at least personally, it really feels like there are mental facilities that suddenly become "communicative", a higher (no pun intended) mental state. If I dose right I often use marijuana to reflect about how I'm living my life, a social situation that needs attention, a hard problem at work, or sometimes I just really really love listening to music. And I have to say, if you've never listened to music while high, you truly are missing out on an experience.
All this is basically to say I totally agree with your statement about "pulling back the curtain." I personally consider it useful, it's often nice to have a different perspective on a problem. It's helped me out a lot, I think.
Can attest to those experiences too. Most of my biggest decisions in life were started as a seed thought in Inception style while high. For this to happen though, I had to be alone with my thoughts, otherwise others presence would take all the focus. And they were really good life changing decisions.
What basically happens (among other things) the feed from my subconsciousness that sometimes suggest ideas out of blue or solves problems becomes much, much stronger. Sometimes I can't even manage to type all of those ideas/todos into phone, they come so fast. The only issue is, short term memory impairment also makes them fade away pretty quickly, so sometime it looks like a race to record it all.
> I've always been under the impression that consciousness is actually a bunch of brain activity competing for attention and that one thing at a time is selected/blessed to be the highlight of one's attention.
I think this is also the scientific consensus. "Consciousness and the Brain" is a good overview of recent studies on consciousness, and piecing together the results. I've just started reading, but so far I'd highly recommend it.
Right: certainly not for many of the hard or big-picture questions. The experiments described in "Consciousness and the Brain" that I've read so far have been very conservative in their conclusions, however, and I think they mostly avoid the sort of criticisms you linked to.
Interesting. And not anecdotical at all to me. Because due to "shrooms" in the night of New Year´s Eve of either 1997,1998 or 1999 I experienced something very similar. Anyways, long story short: The setting wasn't ideal for me, i took them rather reluctantly, and felt rather pressured to be there at all. For about half an hour nothing (that i could percieve)
happened (to me), then i noticed i had some sort of X-ray-vision into my arms and hands, blueish, not to the bone only, but with moving tendons and muscles. Rather funny at the moment. Then something happened. I heard a really high pitched sound, like in the first three seconds of "Cambodia" from Kim Wilde for example combined with the visual (hallucination) of the effect when one turns an old TV off
like shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLdaqWu3mA0
But in REVERSE! It felt like i could suddenly see all around in every direction at the same time from the middle of a sphere onto it's inner side. Which was tiled in hexagonal honeycombs, which i KNEW it was impossible, because i remember remembering something about footballs which need not only hexagons, but pentagons also. So i've been in the "Filmtisch (/ movie cutting table?)" of my whole life, where every single hexagon contained a scene of my past, which i could rewind/forward/skip, view from any point i'd like, and even change a little to see what could have been different.
It was awesome. Really. And where you say undulating i said mirage/shimmering heat because that is like what it looked to me, except when i focused on one, then it became crystal clear. And then it was gone, i felt feverish, thirsty and very groggy.
Anyways, since i'm rather skeptical i tried to remember where my subconsciousness could have gotten the template for
this escherian hexagonally tiled inner sphere, but the only thing i could come up with is the end sequence of a movie called "The Lawnmover Man" from 1992, where a captured AI
tries to break out into the worldwide net from a sphere in which every hexagon represented a link out of it. But it is not really the same, not at all.
I figure the writer of the movie had a similar trip which had honeycomb patterns everywhere and he chose to integrate it into his story, looking for his own significance for it. It's too common for it to be a coincidence in that context.
Lulz, I'll share a very similar experience. The first time I took mushrooms, I felt like I had been contacted by a feminine god that conveyed to me the underlying structure of the universe, which was a hexagonal pattern that I could visually see. I believe my eyes were open, but I was staring at a light-fixture (which you shouldn't do, obviously) so this was essentially a closed-eye visual. In the context of my thoughts, "the underlying structure of the universe" meant the nodes and edges which fermions and bosons move around on over time. The hexagons I saw were 2D, but this wasn't a problem for me since I don't take it for granted that we actually live in a 3D universe (string theorists posit something like 11-14, but there's at least one proposed model of a 2D universe that is equivalent the 3D rules we tend to use, and it's perfectly conceivable to me that 3D space is just a useful model that evolution came up with). When I was coming down I fully appreciated that my prior belief in a feminine deity that spread psilocybin-like life throughout the universe to convey the underlying structure of the cosmos to us denizens was ridiculous, and I haven't since taken that thought seriously, but that honeycomb pattern is etched deep into my brain now (if it wasn't already).
Edit: I'd like to add some links that touch on your perception of the hexagon pattern as a representation of the inner workings of the brain. These are super-not-rigorous. They're the collaborative work of people who have had similar experiences of some sort of representation of thought while on entheogens, and I thought you might find them interesting:
That's really cool and interesting. There may be a deeper meaning to what you saw but it would be a rather surprising result if there was conscious awareness of these structures since there does not appear to be any mechanisms for that.
I've had glimpses of internal representations. It's hard to explain, and it seems to imply that either one part of the brain is observing another, or there is some form of recurrence at play. No hexagonal grids though.
I’d suspect that such a concept could only be applied to a small handful of substances. To use the term “drugs” open-endedly is misleading, even if your own anecdote specifically highlights psilocybin from mushrooms.
Even if hypoxia “brings out the stars from behind the daylight sky” your brain is still dying, and you’ll leave yourself damaged if you take it too far. So, if huffing volatile inhalents is romantic, then what else might be?
In vino veritas? Alcohol confers brain damage as well...
>In high school I took magic mushrooms with my friends, and at one point in the experience the world disappeared and I saw an undulating fabric in a honeycomb pattern. In the center of each “hole” in the fabric was a link to a memory, a time and a place.
This very much resembles my experience taking too many mushrooms.
This and the article also reminds of the times I tried salvia divinorum. It was always accompanied by strange geometric patterns that came before and after really going somewhere.
The one time I tried chewing it the way the south american shamans used to gave me pretty heavy depersonalization and turned the world into a big geometric honeycomb pattern that felt like the 2d backdrop of a play.
LSD also gave some strange rippling geometric patterns that really came to mind reading through this article.
I dunno, when I had my most intense experience(thought it was LSD on blotter but probably an RC since it lasted 21 hours), I saw an infinite 3d matrix of multicolored, neon spheres arranged in a rectilinear matrix.
I've eaten a lot of shrooms and never saw a honeycomb. Lots of multicolored, neon visuals that look vaguely Mayan. Lots of squat, squared off tribal stuff.
Mescaline was very visual but no geometric patterns as far as I can recall.
As it happens, the representations (aka embeddings) learned by deep neural nets also organize objects geometrically in tensor or vector spaces, such that similar objects end up near each other in a high-dimensional system of coordinates. AI researchers nowadays routinely use generative models like, say, Glow[a] to identify geometric directions in the coordinates of a representation space that correspond with concepts such as "smiling vs not smiling," "male vs female," etc.
I find myself reading the news backwards; rather than "the brain uses space-orientation to map other things", it's like "it's interesting how many things can be represented in a space-like manner that we may not have otherwise thought they could be".
I think the difference is that rather than "the brain is sort of performing a hack and reusing something it doesn't seem to have any driving need to re-use", the news is that many things turn out to fit into that model despite our intuition that they should have no particular spatialness to them. Metrics are more fundamental than we may have thought and it's actually neither a surprise nor a "hack" that the brain exploits this characteristic.
An interesting question comes to mind; do some brains have more dimensionality than others? Are some people literally one-dimensional thinkers, pervasively? Could we produce a test to distinguish between 2.1- and 2.5-dimensional thinkers? Can an increase in dimensionality be trained, or a natural talent fail to flourish without proper stimulation?
> I find myself reading the news backwards; rather than "the brain uses space-orientation to map other things", it's like "it's interesting how many things can be represented in a space-like manner that we may not have otherwise thought they could be".
It could actually be spatially related in the brain too. Neurons are situated spatially and spatial constraints, ie. they have a limited number of connections, and the closer two neurons are spatially, the faster they can signal each other. The neuronal connections also rewire each other based on reinforcement, which could very well consistent of moving related concepts closer in your physical brain (at least important ones).
I worked on this with Peter Gardenfors in my PhD thesis. If someone is interested in a mathematical model of conceptual spaces which is not machine-learning oriented, you can check this out:
>" Many observers see geometric visual hallucinations after taking hallucinogens such as LSD, cannabis, mescaline or psilocybin; on viewing bright ickering lights; on waking up or falling asleep; in “near-death” experiences; and in many other syndromes. Kl ¨ uver organized the images into four groups called form constants: (I) tunnels and funnels, (II) spirals, (III) lattices, including honeycombs and triangles, and (IV) cobwebs. "<
I used to see geometric shapes upon waking up if I woke up abruptly in the middle of a very visual dream, but only if the first thing I saw was a sudden bright light (as in having my sleep mask abruptly removed). Hasn't happened to me in a while, but usually the bright light of the real world looks "pixelated" in very weird geometric patterns that for me were morphing, chromatically abberated and animated. These flashes of shapes only lasted 1 second at most but were very trippy to experience.
>“Cognitive spaces are a way of thinking about how our brain might organize our knowledge of the world,” Bellmund said. It’s an approach that concerns not only geographical data, but also relationships between objects and experience. “We were intrigued by evidence from many different groups that suggested that the principles of spatial coding in the hippocampus seem to be relevant beyond the realms of just spatial navigation,” Bellmund said. The hippocampus’ place and grid cells, in other words, map not only physical space but conceptual space. It appears that our representation of objects and concepts is very tightly linked with our representation of space.
That is certainly how I think I think ... I think :) As an experiment two years ago, I bootstrapped an IDE from an html file with just textarea that could overwrite it's own source on a webserver (it would restart the server if the server code was changed) in the browser. Eventually I got it to the point that it laid out the editors for individual files in an infinite plane of 2d space (akin to something like placing editor windows in a google maps like scrollable ui) and saved their locations between refreshes.
I still really miss the spatial sense that the file that controls the editors is up over there, and the file browser code is right over at that location, (and they slightly overlap their tests and other supporting files).
I had this vision of this sort of becoming a system wherein everyone could choose to see all the files in the system being edited in a shared global space (or perhaps space of workspaces). So if you wanted to see what so and so was working on you'd just navigate over to area where the files they are working on are located. By default if you were editing a file in this system in a public repo, since it was browser based it would be publicly viewable.
Juggling editor tabs and re-opening and reorganizing windows, and not being able to create workspaces of editor layouts since then has kind of sucked. It's like having this glimpse of a system that was from some future time but then having to abandon it.
I can navigate quite well, but I need to go to where I must make a choice of path. I have a hard time visualizing the map, or the overview, so to speak. I find that I organize my code much the same way. I build patterns that I recognize and can choose the right way (to modify or use) when I get there. I guess it must be the same for everyone, but at different levels of scale.
In Krakow, Gärdenfors pushed against that prejudice. In his talk, “The Geometry of Thinking,” he suggested that humans are able to do things that today’s powerful computers can’t do—like learn language quickly and generalize from particulars with ease (to see, in other words, without much training, that lions and tigers are four-legged felines)—because we, unlike our computers, represent information in geometrical space.
On the contrary, it's pretty common to represent information on computers in geometrical space. This is what the whole concept of embeddings is, and it works really well!