Again, not evidence for anything, but seizures can apparently be incredibly blissful, so it all depends. STV proponents would probably say that depending on the subnetworks involved and the particular synchronicities in the firing patterns, it could be a pleasant seizure or an unpleasant one ...
Thanks Holly! I'm not advocating for STV, I'm just an interested layperson who's followed QRI's work for some time and felt frustrated with everyone here furiously talking past one another.
Is the claim that the symmetry is the qualia of valence? How would symmetries and resonance be exempt from the hard problem any more than neuronal activation?
Yep – if I understand it correctly, the reasoning goes something like "there's nothing obviously special about biological neurons as a physical substrate, so maybe consciousness is fundamental to the universe but only emerges when physical systems interact with each other/themselves in particular ways". IIT seems to have that flavour, and STV as well. I don't know if it solves the hard problem per se, but I can see why a fundamental theory is more appealing than just a brain map of reward/aversion "centers" and the like.
Do you think it should be compelling based on a trip? Is that real evidence?
I wanted to be careful, that's why I tried to emphasize the word "feels" :P
Trips are compelling evidence that the space of possible conscious experiences is vast and unspeakably weird, and that our "normal" consciousness is just what evolution optimized for to help us get through the day. And so in the endeavour of cataloguing, systematizing, and eventually trying to model qualia, I would trust someone who personally appreciates the vastness of this space, and who is rigorous and detailed about its weirdness.
This is dangerous territory, not just epistemically but politically. Drunk and stoned people's "deep insights" tend to be dumb nonsense, so why should we trust other druggies' claims? Sadly, academic psychedelics researchers struggle with this public perception, and their solution is to publish only on clinical applications, as if the changes in consciousness were an embarrassing side effect rather than central to the experience. QRI are the only team I know of who don't implicitly privilege sobriety and instead explicitly talk about the space of possible qualia. That is something I really appreciate.
As for whether symmetries/harmonies in the qualia experienced on trips are a compelling enough reason to look for symmetries/harmonies in brain data – I really don't know. But I do think gears-level models of qualia would be useful, and since neuroscience is mostly silent on the topic, symmetries are as good a place as any to start ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯
I feel like your explanations are skipping a bunch of steps that would help folks understand where you're coming from. FWIW, here's how I make sense of STV:
Hi Mike, I really enjoy your and Andrés's work, including STV, and I have to say I'm disappointed by how the ideas are presented here, and entirely unsurprised at the reaction they've elicited.
There's a world of a difference between saying "nobody knows what valence is made out of, so we're trying to see if we can find correlations with symmetries in imaging data" (weird but fascinating) and "There is an identity relationship between suffering and disharmony" (time cube). I know you're not time cube man, because I've read lots of other QRI output over the years, but most folks here will lack that context. This topic is fringe enough that I'd expect everything to be extra-delicately phrased and very well seasoned with ifs and buts.
Again, I'm a big fan of QRI's mission, but I'd be worried about donating I if I got the sense that the organization viewed STV not as something to test, but as something to prove. Statistically speaking, it's not likely that STV will turn out to be the correct mechanistic grand theory of valence, simply because it's the first one (of hopefully many to come). I would like to know:
I read Derek Lowe's post about it earlier today, and it only says that they're now going into Phase III. Knowing next to nothing about vaccine distribution or malaria, I wonder: if that 77% number holds up, what can we expect the next decade or two to look like, malaria-wise? Clearly 77% isn't quite 100%; will people risk it and forgo bed nets and antimalarials? How likely is it that boosters will be required every few years? How much will this cost? Etc. etc. Anyone care to share their informed guesses at how this will go?
Giving Green should recommend donating to a portfolio of promising policy change and activism organizations.
As jackva points out, there is a thin line between effective advocacy for policy change (e.g. Clean Air Task Force) and the kind of activism that prevents conservative politicians from touching the climate file with a ten-foot pole, because their base sees it as a "leftist agenda" issue.
Anecdotally, I have met with the staffers of several deep-red, lukewarmist/denialist Republican senators to lobby for revenue-neutral carbon taxes (CCL is a great organization to volunteer with!). Surprisingly, they all privately agreed with the urgency of the climate crisis, but the only thing they really cared about during those meetings was evidence—like the Yale Climate Opinion Maps, hand-written letters from constituents, etc.—that supporting climate legislation wouldn't get them primaried.
In light of that experience, and the razor-thin margins held by Democrats, I can only agree with jackva that amplifying TSM/XR/Standing Rock/etc. may well be counterproductive in some places. I'm glad Keystone XL won't happen, but I would sleep better if clean tech and carbon pricing had killed its viability instead.
I really appreciate this work, but wonder about the magnitude of the uncertainty in your analysis. Would it be possible for you to convert your calculation into a Guesstimate sheet?
That sounds right to me. (And Will, your drawbridge metaphor is wonderful.)
My impression is that there already is some grumbling about EA being too elitist/out-of-touch/non-diverse/arrogant/navel-gazing/etc., and discussions in the community about what can be done to fix that perception. Add to that Toby Ord's realization (in his well-marketed book) that hey, perhaps climate change is a bigger x-risk (if indirectly) than he had previously thought, and I think we have fertile ground for posts like this one. EA's attitude has already shifted once (away from earning-to-give); perhaps the next shift is an embrace of issues that are already in the public consciousness, if only to attract more diversity into the broader community.
I've had smart and very morally-conscious friends laugh off the entirety of EA as "the paperclip people", and others refer to Peter Singer as "that animal guy". And I think that's really sad, because they could be very valuable members of the community if we had been more conscious to avoid such alienation. Many STEM-type EAs think of PR considerations as distractions from the real issues, but that might mean leaving huge amounts of low-hanging utility fruit unpicked.
Explicitly putting present-welfare and longtermism on equal footing seems like a good first step to me.
What a fantastic post. Thank you! Your frustration resonates strongly with me. I think the dismissive attitude towards climate issues may well be an enormous waste of goodwill towards EA concepts.
How many young/wealthy people stumble upon 80k/GiveWell/etc. with heartfelt enthusiasm for solving climate, The Big Issue Of Our Time, only to be snubbed? How many of them could significantly improve their career/giving plans if they received earnest help with climate-related cause prioritization, instead of ivory-tower lecturing about weirdo x-risks?
Can't we save that stuff for later? "If you like working on climate, you might also be interested in ..."?
This isn't to say that EA's marginal-impact priorities are wrong; I myself work mainly on AI safety right now. But a career in nuclear energy is still more useful than one in recyclable plastic straw R&D (or perhaps it isn't?), and that's worth researching and talking about.
I've spent a good bit of time in the environmental movement and if anyone could use a heavy dose of rationality and numeracy, it's climate activists. I consider drawdown.org a massive accomplishment and step in the right direction. It's sometimes dismissed on this forum for being too narrow-minded, and that's probably fair, but then what's EA's answer, besides a few uncertain charity recommendations? Where's our GiveWell for climate?
Given that people's concern about climate change is only going up, I hope that this important conversation is here to stay. Thanks again for posting!
For those concerned about wild animals, such a quick rate of decline could give some reassurance (in addition to the theoretical arguments) that wild insect populations will be small in the long-run.
For those of us more active in other cause areas, could you clarify what you mean by this? Are you coming from an anti-natalist angle here, and is that the prevalent position in the wild animal community? What are the additional "theoretical arguments" for expecting small insect populations?