If you’re interested in understanding QRI’s research ecosystem better, we recommend the following:
Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark (book; 432 pages). A tale about big things (big bang cosmology), small things (quantum mechanics), and what they have in common (emergence from a simple mathematical formalism). Core takeaway: math is the language of reality, and to truly understanding something means finding the mathematical object which represents it.
A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek (book; 448 pages). A Nobel laureate and friend of Tegmark, Wilczek asks the question, “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” and proceeds to explore how looking for beauty & symmetry in the laws of nature has been an extraordinarily successful strategy for physicists. Core takeaway: the Symmetry Theory of Valence is a reasonable extrapolation from the past trajectory of physics.
Can Biotechnology Abolish Suffering? by David Pearce (book; 618 pages). A collection of Pearce’s essays which range across a wide set of topics, from consciousness to pharmacology to ethics. Pearce is a notable champion of valence realism, or the idea that some things do feel better than others, and that in principle this might be quantifiable. Core takeaway: valence realism is plausible, and this has deep theoretical & normative implications.
Overview of IIT by Giulio Tononi (lecture; 20m). We at QRI don’t think Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) is completely correct, but as the first concrete example of how one might attempt to formalize qualia, it’s an important landmark in the field. Core takeaway: Tononi et al. have constructed a lot of tools & concepts in this space, and some of these may prove useful.
Connectome-specific harmonic waves on LSD by Selen Atasoy (lecture; 22m; transcript). Neuroscience suffers from a lack of mid-level abstractions that can bridge what we can measure (neuroimaging) and what we experience (phenomenology). Selen Atasoy has put forth a novel way of interpreting fMRI data in light of the brain’s natural harmonic modes (“standing waves in the brain”) that may provide a place to start. Core takeaway: qualia research needs a neuroimaging paradigm, and Selen Atasoy’s approach (“connectome-specific harmonic waves”) seems highly promising.