The cutest quantum physics thought experiment is one of its most perplexing: In the Schrödinger’s cat experiment, there’s a box, and in this box is a cat and a single radioactive atom. When the box is opened, the cat will be dead or alive, depending on whether the atom has decayed or not. Before the box is opened, you can consider the atom to exist in one of two superpositions — either decayed or not — meaning that the cat is both simultaneously alive and dead until you know for sure.
It is, in a word, a paradox — at least to the sober human. With this in mind, a transhumanist named Andrés Gomez set out to find out whether the proverbial cat could be observed in the same duality as the atom — that is, in quantifiable multiple realities — by a person high on LSD. On Sunday, Gómez — who runs Qualia Computing, a “project that aims to disclose the computational properties of consciousness” — published a post detailing an experiment he conducted to test what he calls “Psychedelic State of Input Superposition” (PSIS). He describes this as the “experience of sensing what appears to be a superposition of inputs from multiple adjacent realities.”
Gómez’s idea is that a psychedelic like LSD could allow someone to perceive this hypothetical idea of the multiverse — the finite and infinite possible universes. He admits that “there is no known way to induce PSIS on purpose,” but his post references LSD-using Redditors who claim to have experienced the phenomenon. For example, user I_DID_LSD_ON_A_PLANE wrote:
“So I had what you call ‘sonder,’ a moment of clarity where I realized that I wasn’t the center of the universe, that everyone is just as important as me. . .That’s when shit went quantum. All these stories begun sinking into me. It was as if I was beginning to experience their stories simultaneously.”
These “stories” — or sensory inputs — Gómez suggests, are different branches of the multiverse. To test this idea, he and two subjects attempted to complete a task in which they examined and predicted the horizontal change of a square pixel (the “quantum square”) under different states of sobriety. His hypothesis was that psychedelics could help “you see more clearly the path that the squares have traced over time.”
Gómez and the other two participants attempted the experiment sober, on alcohol, on DMT, and on LSD. What he found, somewhat disappointingly, was that the substances didn’t make a statistical difference. Each condition resulted in “chance level performance outcomes” with no experiment participant ever experiencing PSIS.
There are multiple reasons why Gómez’s results failed to support his theory, including the possibility that his hypothesis itself was wrong and the idea that the experiment itself wasn’t designed correctly.
Gómez wanted to prove with certainty that psychedelic experiences would cause an interaction with other realities, and again, that’s where Schrödinger’s cat comes in. LSD causes regions of the brain to communicate with each other in a way that they don’t normally do, causing hallucinations and a disintegration of the self. Notorious drug researcher David Nutt Ph.D. explained to Nature that this disintegration is the “sense that you are less a singular entity, and more melded with people and things around you.” That’s what Gómez references with the Reddit examples — but much like like a box that’s unopened, it’s difficult to quantify whether someone is interacting with other realities or is just experiencing the byproduct of drugs. From these results, the answer is still unquantifiable.Photos via Andrs Gómez, Giphy