Consciousness research is a young field. In particular, the focus of simultaneously taking seriously valence realism and qualia formalism opens up a vast expanse of unexplored possibilities. As such, there are many things we just haven’t had the opportunity to do yet even though some of these things could be extremely valuable.
Below you will find a list of projects that we think are definitely worth doing, but that we either need help with, or don’t have enough resources to do in-house at the moment. If you’d like to take the lead on one of these projects, fill out the Contact form at the bottom of this page. We love self-starters who don’t feel like they need to ask permission to go ahead and add a lot of value.
One of the most important bottlenecks we have right now is funding. If you’re in a position to give, funding is one of the most effective force-multipliers for us (used for travel, conferences, research equipment, internships, and visiting scholars). Currently you can donate via:
Research: being a small organization, we’re bandwidth-limited, and are most interested in focusing our efforts on supporting work done within the QRI paradigm (as outlined by our intellectual lineages).
The most important research project for which we need the most outside help is empirical validation of the Symmetry Theory of Valence, with the experimental design proposed in Quantifying Bliss. To do this, we need access to high-quality fMRI data of individuals experiencing strongly positive and strongly negative states. For example, data of people in high-valence states might involve studies that look into the brain activity characteristic of meditative Jhanas and Metta (loving-kindness), romantic love, orgasm, tasty flavors, euphoric drugs, and psychedelics. And data of people in low-valence states might involve studies about chronic pain, suicidal depression, schizophrenia, and drug withdrawal. If you can provide us with such, please get in touch!
Other projects on our radar that we’d be glad to find people to take the lead on:
Cost-effective prevention of very negative valence states: Some experiences are orders of magnitude worse than others. In most cases, this is not the result of anyone’s malice, but the consequence of biological accidents that lead to disproportionate negative valence responses. This is because evolution’s output is not naturally subjected to rational hedonic audits. We are interested in identifying ways to identify and avoid these experiences.
Improve the Baseline: While people can do all kinds of things to temporarily increase their sense of wellbeing, long-term substantial improvements are rarely achieved. We want to find ways to sustainably increase the baseline of hedonic tone:
Test Theories of Valence: Hermann von Helmholtz revolutionized music theory by using a hand-made glass-bulb with two openings and using wax to plug it into his ear in order to filter out all sound outside of a narrow frequency band. Doing this, he discovered that instrumental dissonance is the result of the added dissonance between the partials of the timbres of two given musical notes. This is to say – just because an experiment looks wacky does not mean it can’t tell us very important things about why some things feel good and not others.
Applications of States of Consciousness: Some states of consciousness are better for doing your taxes than others. But when it comes to aesthetic enjoyment, creativity, and open-ended explorations, are the “do taxes” states of consciousness really optimal? A very interesting research area is that of identifying novel applications for unusual states of consciousness. And as we saw in the How to Secretly Communicate with People on LSD article, exotic state-spaces of consciousness could have unexpected information-processing benefits
Exploratory Work: We are very open to extensions of our work in creative directions.
Artistic projects: often, art is the most effective way to communicate, to teach, and to coordinate. We’re looking for individuals with technical and aesthetic skills to help us on specific projects, including:
Content & organization: we have a lot of writings, and sometimes this can feel a little daunting. We’re looking for help in collecting and organizing our content, e.g.:
Community Building: every successful research project has a community around it. We really value efforts which help build and feed this community-