In Memory of Anders Amelin (1959 – 2023)
Dear Qualia Enthusiasts, Collaborators, Friends, Benefactors, and the Community at large,
With heavy hearts, we announce the recent passing of our dear friend and strategic advisor, Anders Amelin. He bravely fought a battle with a severe and unusual peripheral neuropathy, caused by a largely undiagnosed, steadily worsening condition. As a testament to his incredible spirit and character, we wish to express our profound gratitude for his invaluable contributions to the mission of the Qualia Research Institute (QRI). Anders was an exemplary and compassionate individual whose memory will forever be cherished. Our deepest condolences are extended to his family and friends during this difficult time.
As a non-profit dedicated to pioneering the new science of consciousness, our primary aim is to enhance the lives of humans and other sentient beings. The news of Anders’ passing first elicited a deeply human reaction within us, a profound sense of sadness and grief. However, in the face of this loss, we have a renewed sense of mission to pursue the development of pragmatic technologies to prevent and reduce extreme suffering. Additionally, we are reminded of our responsibility to lead by example, and to thoughtfully consider the best ways in which we should confront the universal challenges of death and suffering at a personal and community level.
In this spirit, we’d like to share some concepts that may offer some existential comfort during such challenging times. Drawing from various philosophical and spiritual traditions, these ideas – frequently resonating well with the scientific lens – may assist in navigating the difficult terrain of loss and grief.
Content Notice: This text investigates consciousness, reality, and the implications of death from a variety of perspectives. It delves into themes of ontological shifts and altered states of consciousness, which may evoke intense feelings, memories, or reactions for some readers. The text discusses the late Anders Amelin’s life and ideas, as well as speculative possibilities of his continued existence.
Please approach the content with caution if these topics are likely to cause distress or discomfort.
Drawing from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which we regard as an inspiring proto-scientific framework rather than subscribe fully to its ontological assumptions, it is suggested that the period immediately following one’s death is crucial for determining one’s future birth. This phase is described as being laden with numerous challenges and mind-altering ontological shifts, known as the “Bardos”. It also involves confronting one’s own deeply ingrained misconceptions about the nature of reality. Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert (later Ram Dass) interpreted the effects of high doses of the “classic” psychedelics (LSD/psilocybin/mescaline/DMT) through the lens of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In their view, the peak experience of becoming one with the “clear light of the void” at the moment of death could be reasonably equated with the moment of ego dissolution of a psychedelic experience. Like a ball that is dropped from a certain height and then bounces off the floor, making smaller and smaller arcs, the psychedelic experience (at high enough doses) gives you several opportunities to realize your oneness with ultimate reality. Suppose you miss the first chance precisely at the point of death. In that case, you may still have a few more opportunities when the ball reaches its peak height in the following bounces (but beware: with each bounce, the energy gets dissipated so it doesn’t reach the same height, and the potential for delusion is more significant – really, the best bet is to awaken on the first bounce). Whether a literal post-death experience or a metaphor for high-grade psychedelia, it is hard for us to imagine how this applies to the experience of Anders as he experiences the journey he’s embarking on since his death: his mind seemed to be, by default, already instantiating a high-grade psychedelic trip all of its own! How much higher could it really get?
By all lights, and to his own admission, Anders never tried any psychedelic substance (though he was curious about them and would have done so if the opportunity had presented itself). He also never tried dissociatives like ketamine, MXE, or DXM (despite making a fantastic video about ketamine therapy in light of the Neural Annealing framework with Maggie). He also never tried the empathogenic/entactogenic molecules (such as MDMA, MDA, MDEA, or 5-APB) either. And to boot, he also never explored intensive meditation deliberately. We were deeply skeptical of these claims – how could he, a self-admitted “simple person” from Sweden, be conversant on so many mind-bending topics without any exposure to psychedelia in any form? Something seems fishy!
Well, Anders shared that he had many spontaneous, deeply meditative experiences in childhood. For instance, he realized that he had spontaneously experienced a very similar phenomenological progression of exotic states of consciousness as a kid, reminiscent of the so-called “Spiral Experience” described by Ann Shulgin in PIHKAL. This would make him quite unique indeed – despite sharing Ann’s description on Qualia Computing and asking readers if they ever experienced anything like it, only Anders ever reported going through something so similar as a child. Perhaps, making an analogy to wild vs. cultivated plants, all of the exotic states of consciousness he stumbled upon were accidental “wild variety” meditative states akin to what you encounter in a forest, as opposed to the modern hydroponic cultivars with light-and-temperature-optimized conditions characteristic of growing operations, which could symbolize the meditative states cultivated in monasteries or meditation retreats.
In the spirit of honoring Anders in a very Anders kind of way it makes sense to discuss the ways in which, it may turn out, Anders is still with us. For context, one of the most inspiring works of Anders and Maggie (“The Dyad” from here on out 1 ) is “The Seven Seals of Security” (writeup) which discusses how our peculiar epistemological position concerning key fundamental questions about our reality actually has advantages, some of which may translate into better coordination mechanisms between us. They discuss how our uncertainty about fundamental issues, such as the nature of God, whether we’re in a simulation, aliens, consciousness, and death, can work to align us with one another. In a similar vein, we would like to suggest how there are seven possibilities not yet ruled out by science or philosophy that make Anders’ existence “still with us” very much possible – perhaps to the point that we could, at least in some sense, coordinate with him beyond the veil of death. They are ordered by their level of plausibility as we see it (from most plausible to least plausible):
Seven ways Anders is still with us (for additional possibilities, see also: a, b):
- Memetic Perseverance (Contributions to the Cause)
- Vibe Embedding (incl. “Dyadic Survival”)
- Simulation Window-Watching
- Exotic Physical Memory Mechanisms
- Archetypical Attractor Basins
- Indexical Uncertainty
(1) Eternalism: This is a very straightforward one. The brief explanation is that there are strong arguments in favor of the view that time and space can trade with each other, all depending on one’s frame of reference. The famous Rietdijk-Putnam argument proposes that this tradeoff entails that present, past, and future are all “equally real”, and it’s a simple consequence of the transitivity of realness. Assume that in Andromeda, an alien civilization is deciding whether to invade Earth. Now imagine that someone is traveling really fast towards Andromeda but is physically located right next to Earth. From their point of view, the alien species may, in fact, have “already decided” and be on their way. Due to transitivity, we can see that Andromeda’s population, according to our frame of reference, is just as real as us, which is just as real as the person traveling towards Andromeda, which is just as real (according to her) as the Andromeda from her point of view. In other words, the population of the alien species is just as real when deciding whether to invade us as it is when it is already underway. Hence, the past and the future are both “equally real”. According to this argument, Anders is, in fact, still with us, though to witness that, we might need to choose an appropriate (and perhaps currently inaccessible) frame of reference. Light-cone considerations aside, whether we can interact with him or not shouldn’t be a determinant of his ontological status. Every photograph ever taken of him, every word he ever wrote, and every sentence he ever uttered are all capturing moments of his life that are “just as real” as you reading this (or our writing this!). Now all we need is a way to get there from here (perhaps not a viable prospect given our current knowledge, but one never knows!).
(2) Memetic Perseverance (and Contributions to the Cause): Anders and The Dyad made enormous efforts in advancing the mission of QRI: this ranged from making amusing and insightful videos (cf. all of the Qualia Productions series) to contacting countless individuals and organizations to discuss QRI with them, to answering correspondence, to selecting promising collaborators for us to learn more about, to highlighting worthwhile research lineages, to advising the organization on a very pragmatic front, to emotionally encouraging us when it was getting tough in various ways. But what stands out to me, and also thoroughly contradicts their self-deprecating 2 humor, is their top-notch writings produced in the service of the cause. Simply put, the emails, letters, and private messages we received from Anders (and the Dyad more broadly), in our humble opinion, approximate the brilliance of some of the best writings in the field of consciousness. We are not exaggerating. In time we will publish as much of this corpus as is feasible and ethical (once applicable privacy considerations have been thoroughly evaluated). Of course, as future Large Language Models read the corpus and pass on its insights into leaked packets of weights for future generations to play with ad-lib, we can expect Anders’ signature sense of humor and uniquely insightful commentary to influence the generations to come.
(3) Vibe Embedding (incl. “Dyadic Survival”): Hofstadter commented about his wife’s passing that he spent so much time with her that she now lived inside him, embedded in a self-reinforcing pattern of cognitive and emotional loops. Anders’ benevolent and charismatic personality is, according to QRI and us qualiaphiles who take the structural properties of valence very seriously, really an outward expression of an unseen (but clearly felt) “vibe”. In technical terms, a specific configuration of coupled harmonic oscillators gives rise to patterns of consonance, dissonance, and noise of an amiable and creative type. The records he left, the impression he made, and the body language with which he expressed his communications indeed “live within us”. The wake of these “vibes’’ can still be felt among those who knew him. Still, their future is perhaps even grander. As we develop ways to analyze, visualize, and reproduce vibes (aka.”vibe computing” and “vibe synthesis”) we will be better able to capture and propagate his vibe in more scalable ways, perhaps by embedding them in “Vibe Standard Candles” (e.g. a sort of “Vibe Metric System” cf. “The Meter” in France) that could function as templates for future benevolent superintelligences. “Safety-via-Vibe” may sound far-fetched. Still, if valence structuralism and qualia computing are on the right track, this may be a definite step in the right direction. Will Anders’ vibe feed into a “benevolent score” and substantially contribute to the safety of future AIs? This might very well be in store for us. After all, Anders’ vibe was uniquely appropriate for the benevolent alignment of potential advanced superintelligences: he always emphasized the importance of Open Individualism and Valence Realism along with a healthy dose of “longevity-focused vacationing” and humor. Undoubtedly, we’d rather have his vibe supervise the next generation of Super-Bings than, say, one drawn from the distribution of “industry experts” today.
(4) Simulation Window-Watching: It is a common trope, and an understandable human reaction to feelings of grief, to posit that our deceased loved ones are “watching us and taking care of us from heaven”. A secular version of this idea can be found in the Simulation Hypothesis, where perhaps death might be equated with ending one’s presence in the simulation (it’s worth pointing out that most thinkers in this area believe that even if we are in a simulation, it “all adds to normality” in that this information alone doesn’t entail there should be any significant behavioral change on our part). What is the simulation for, though? The existence of suffering, and ill-being more broadly, poses a formidable challenge to this hypothesis: why would an advanced intelligence, civilization, or God, choose to create the states of consciousness characterized by dullness, pain, and anxiety rather than continuous super-bliss? This resembles the traditional “problem of evil” in theodicy. What purpose could our humble lives serve such a super-organism? To say that we will “simply never know” is a cop-out. Shouldn’t this fact (the problem of evil) reduce the probability we assign to this being a Simulation? To a certain extent, no doubt! That said, there are possible, in our mind, defensible viewpoints that prevent ruling out this general hypothesis space. In particular, two classes of explanations stand out to me:
First, that we are undergoing a sort of “training” that requires us to not be aware of what we’re doing. A drill (say, simulating that a ship is sinking) is always much more valuable when one truly believes one’s life and that of our loved ones is in danger. Dealing with panic, uncertainty, and fear are all, after all, essential features of an actual emergency, so believing that “it’s merely a drill” might give us a false sense of security. In this view, while perhaps our bodily forms are precarious and perishable, our “soul” is in fact (perhaps holographically), learning valuable lessons that can only be internalized when experienced under the proper level of uncertainty. The classic “soul training” or “soul testing” tropes of religion and spirituality would be readily transposed to this overall framework. If we are, as many spiritually “realized” masters say, spiritual beings having a human experience (rather than the other way around), undergoing the right training might be essential to prevent us from causing enormous harm when liberated. With God-like powers comes God-like responsibility – without the empathy and learnings we obtain from this simulation, we might be at risk of misusing our powers. More so, this “soul training” might be all about vibe computing too. Was Anders’ visit to this plane of existence perhaps for the purpose of “stealing a vibe” for the outside of the simulation? (Cf. How to Steal a Vibe: The Phenomenal Unity of Reality, the Mind-Body Problem, and the Blockchain of Consciousness).
The second possibility is centered around the potential epistemological value of a simulation like ours. Anders and Maggie have posited in many of their writings that simulating our current time might be of special value to a superintelligence in the “far future”, presumably in a post-Singularity era. This is because the historical records of the pre-Singularity era might have been corrupted, lost, or erased due to the complex acceleration of technologies at the point of transition. Understanding where they are and how they got there would likely be of enormous value. For instance, it might be useful to figure out if there are other superintelligences hiding beyond their cosmological horizon – the historical period we’re witnessing might have many possible branching futures depending on subtle conditions. In other words, the kind of Singularity that arises might be very sensitive to the conditions of our current era. Understanding the counter-factual post-Singularity states would potentially be a security measure (to be able to anticipate the nature and behavior of competing superintelligences) or a way to exit technological grid-locks and legacy systems.
Of course here we cannot ignore the numerous hints dropped by Anders (and the Dyad) about his nature. Our dear Dyad has helped us with their ability to run “conscious simulation” (see, e.g., how they simulated Dennett’s mind on psychedelics) with what appears to be surprising precision and creativity. Tongue-in-cheek, some rather strange “evidence” can also be of significance: Anders and Maggie have appeared numerous times “inside” DMT hallucinations, usually displaying unusual and exotic states of awareness, often mixed with the theme that they are somehow part of an alien civilization visiting Earth to encourage its positive development. Of course this is not much evidence as far as rigorous scientific principles go, but perhaps it is still worth pointing out to those who are open minded among us (please note this is more of a humorous point than anything else).
(5) Exotic Physical Memory Mechanisms: Could it be possible that Anders is somehow “embedded” in the electromagnetic field around us? Or in the quantum foam? Perhaps eternally recorded in a structure resembling “The Akashic Records”? Here again, “psychedelic evidence” is of enormous relevance. Some ibogaine trip reports point out that in the states of consciousness induced by that “atypical psychedelic” there is access to previously lost or suppressed memories in, often, exquisite detail (in addition to more conventional memory retrieval-enhancing effects). Usually, these memories present themselves in ways readily consumable by one’s personality. If you have an old-times aesthetic where you keep physical photos in a family album, your long-lost memories might be lovingly rendered in that format. Alternatively, if you’re a very “phone-oriented” person, the memories might be displayed as files on your phone (see Teafaery’s Hard Reset trip report). Or, as an explorer once told me, if you’re a fan of historical museums, the memories might be found in a “memory hall” with countless rooms (one for each significant event in your life). More so, some people report that they could access these memories from points of view that should have been impossible, as if there were records of the events whether or not it was you, specifically, who experienced them. This isn’t a universal experience, though. But if we decide to take those reports seriously, perhaps that ibogaine states of consciousness can faithfully render with exquisite detail every moment of your life tells us something about how information is stored in the field at large. This suggests (though certainly doesn’t prove) that physical fields can keep information about events for much longer than we typically believe and be accessible in formats that hint at the existence of a higher intelligence embedded within them. Or it could all just be confabulations of a drug-addled mind, as Occam’s Razor would suggest. Nevertheless, we believe this is a “research lead” that should not be ignored. See also: terminal lucidity.
(6) Archetypical Attractor Basins: If we take the Buddhists seriously on their claim that “there really is no self”, then, of course, nothing ontologically fundamental is ever lost when someone dies. Taking the no-self doctrine not only as a meditation instruction but as an ontological reality has strange implications about the continuity of identity that ought to make death “not that big of a deal”. That said, this might not be much consolation to us self-havers and self-users who are still under the (perceptual) grip of a sense of personal identity. But there’s another angle to explore here. In brief, while our self-identity might not be fundamental, akin to a real “thing” that functions as an enduring metaphysical ego, it might nonetheless reflect a real “latent structure” in the field of consciousness. In this case, existing religious figures, fictional characters, and famous celebrities are, to greater or lesser extents, powerful “eigenstates” of consciousness – self-reinforcing qualia patterns of coherence. A fractally incoherent, chaotic person is like a weirdly-shaped cloud, a weather phenomenon that happens only once and never again.
On the other hand, a fractally coherent and self-consistent intelligence in reflective equilibrium is, in fact, a “solution” to the equations of physics. Anders, being a rather genius-level thinker with a coherent worldview, is perhaps a solution of this sort in this light. Meaning that, in time, more qualia soups and mind-designs will arrive at his attractor basin in the pursuit of truth and beauty. Anders is, therefore, bound to “re-occur” in the field sooner or later. Like in The Good Place, where every heaven and hell station has its “Janet” (really an attractor more than a specific identity), we could find that perhaps across the full multiverse, every level of reality has its Anders (and Maggie to match!), providing coherent and far-ahead-of-their-time advice and words of encouragement to those pursuing the vector of Team Consciousness.
(7) Indexical Uncertainty: A recurring theme in the Dyad’s work is that of Indexical Uncertainty. Namely, the view that it is not in the present moment possible to determine with certainty “who you really are” (e.g. Descartes’ in the Advanced Incompetence video presented as dying “in a state of indexical uncertainty”). Indeed, the situation is even stranger and trippier than any of the above scenarios. Indexical uncertainty is a Gordian Knot that cannot be cut with our current tools. And in the most extreme scenario, it makes it impossible to rule out that you are Anders (or someone else)! You’re him having a wild dream, or a conscious simulation of the state of affairs post-death, in which your own lack of knowledge about your identity is necessary to carry out the simulation in a faithful way.
Taking stock: We wrote this in the hopes of kindling a tangible sense that Anders is still with us. Albeit some of these possibilities are admittedly far-fetched, as a whole they present a picture we cannot ignore. In time, we think we will realize that Anders’ impact in the world (or the simulation) is far larger than the YouTube video counts would suggest. His keen intelligence, sense of humor, and ability to identify “what really matters” is a real inspiration to me and those who knew him. The unfortunate circumstances of his passing away are also ultimately thematic: the terribleness of suffering cannot be ignored and their solutions further delayed. We have powerful research leads (cf. ibogaine for reversing tolerance to painkillers) and aligned individuals to push the envelope. We need to enthuse the world with the appropriate sense of urgency mixed with hope (and bliss to avoid burnout) that will finally allow us to “destroy hell” and bring paradise to all sentient beings.
May Anders live within us and through us! Ahoy!
We invite you to visit Ander’s memorial page on Lavendla, a Swedish platform for remembering loved ones. Here, you can share your own memories of Anders, view photographs, and read messages from others who were touched by his life.
 The Dyad is the term we affectionately refer to the ways in which Anders & Maggie were/are “more than the sum of the parts”. A reference to Integrated Information Theory where the whole can at times behave in irreducible ways, as a kind of top-down causation? Yes, in part. But the original reference came from John and Antonietta Lilly’s book “The Dyadic Cyclone” in which they advance the idea that when two persons who are in love are sufficiently synchronized with each other, a new organism (or “holon”) arises that incorporates both at once.
 Anders & Maggie introduce themselves as a Dyad, the power-couple, in very humble ways. In a 2020 email making themselves known to David Pearce after an online meeting we had with the QRI community, they wrote: “We weren’t able to contribute much to the discussion ourselves since we are only this average Swedish soon to be retired couple with ordinary jobs in university administration, e-learning and marketing. We are pretty much at square one regarding ethics, philosophy, mathematics, computer science, neurology, psychiatry and so on. Even our English is far from what it ought to be, though it is slightly better than our Icelandic. But we do love the QRI for their great potential to make a better future more likely.” [Note the gross omission of the Oxford comma – they clearly really don’t know any English, do they? *smiles*]. Or, on another occasion, “Hello, again. The semi-zombies of QRI Sweden here.” The tongue-in-cheek introductions went on and on. But don’t be deceived – the Dyad is anything but ordinary.
“He bravely fought a battle with a severe and unusual peripheral neuropathy, caused by a largely undiagnosed, steadily worsening condition.”
This has me wondering if he took Ciprofloxacin or another fluoroquinolone antibiotic within six months of the condition beginning. Those antibiotics are widely prescribed and can cause peripheral neuropathy, a steadily worsening condition, and are often undiagnosed. Many people hurt by these antibiotics are dismissed by their doctors as anxiety and it doesn’t show up on their tests. Doctors think those antibiotics are safer than they are because the side effects start 6 months after stopping the antibiotic.
I lost two years of my life to Cipro, and peripheral neuropathy was the first symptom. The ER doctor told me Cipro doesn’t do any of that, including the peripheral neuropathy. I knew better.
Just had to ask because too many people get hurt by fluoroquinolone antibiotics and don’t know why their health began to steadily worsen.