PLUS FOUR, n. (++++) A rare and precious transcendental state, which has been called a “peak experience,” a “religious experience,” “divine transformation,” a “state of Samadhi” and many other names in other cultures. It is not connected to the +1, +2, and +3 of the measuring of a drug’s intensity. It is a state of bliss, a participation mystique, a connectedness with both the interior and exterior universes, which has come about after the ingestion of a psychedelic drug, but which is not necessarily repeatable with a subsequent ingestion of that same drug. If a drug (or technique or process) were ever to be discovered which would consistently produce a plus four experience in all human beings, it is conceivable that it would signal the ultimate evolution, and perhaps the end, of the human experiment.
— Alexander Shulgin, PIHKAL, pages 963–965
In this post and accompanying video we provide a general “theory of candy flipping” that aims to explain why LSD + MDMA is so synergistic. What makes, say 200 micrograms of LSD and 150mg of MDMA so prone to be spiritual, psychologically healing, and loving? To get there, we address the following three/four questions:
How do we improve research on candy flipping?
How do we optimize candy flipping proper? And how do we generalize candy flipping for even better results?
What would a general recipe for Shulgin’s ++++ be?
1- We go over current methodologies used to study candy flipping and why their results are limited (Straumann et al., 2023). Then we explain how a “think tank” approach (e.g. phenomenology club) allows us to create more phenomenologically grounded research paradigms (Gómez-Emilsson, 2021). By weighting in the personal experience of highly precise psychonauts with skills in areas like physics, math, visual art, and signal processing, we can arrive at mechanistic models such as those proposed by Steven Lehar in The Grand Illusion (Lehar, 2010) where MDMA causes your world simulation to vibrate in pleasant ways, which in turn “smooths out the rough edges” of the LSD state, or models involving algorithmic-level annealing dynamics (Gomez-Emilsson, 2016; Johnson, 2019; Gómez-Emilsson 2021, 2023). This kind of approach would add phase diagrams, wave mechanics, and nonlinear effects into the picture.
2- Optimizing candy flipping can be done by looking to generate the kind of synergy MDMA + LSD achieve in the best of conditions. Of note, trip reports involving low doses of each together with 2C-B and cannabis are discussed and analyzed. One needs to be mindful of annealing dynamics, drug effect arcs including how to handle the MDMA comedown, and pattern-focused readings of wave effects that for lack of a better metaphor could be catalogued as “qualia lensing“.
3- We hypothesize that the key ingredients to catalyze the blissful nondual awareness that comes from high-end candy flipping are (a) a full-spectrum energizer, (b) something that increases interconnectivity, and (c) a deeply relaxing agent. The combination of these three elements gives rise to a highly-nonlinear effect I call “FU§ION (Field Unification Search/Simplify in Invariant Optical Networks; to be fully unpacked at a later date), where all of the “resonant cavities” are fully relaxed, have a high degree of impedance matching between them, and are energized, so that they kick-start a “field harmonization” process that culminates in profound blissful nondual awareness. The energizer shouldn’t be narrow spectrum (like cocaine) and the relaxing agent shouldn’t be too blunting or non-Newtonian (like opioids). Examples of each:
Combine one of each, carefully dosed, and according to this theory, you might get a ++++. (Please exercise caution when mixing substances – the rule of thumb is to not do it).
Note: 5-MeO-DMT might, in this model, be actually doing all three at once. It happens to be hitting receptors in the right combination for such a deep mystical “relaxed stimulation” to take hold. That said, it is possible that 5-MeO-DMT also has some rough edges, and that it can be further optimized (e.g. such as by combining it with nitrous). More research is needed 🙂
Example Formula: 15mg 2C-B, then an hour later 2g of GHB, and then an hour later DMT (100mg over the course of 2 hours) was reported as a ++++ by a trusted psychonaut recently (comparable in “depth” to 5-MeO-DMT). Please be careful – I am not encouraging anyone to try this. But if you do, or have done something similar, I’d be grateful if you let me know what happened. 🙂
Gómez-Emilsson, A. (2023), Neural Field Annealing and Psychedelic Thermodynamics presentation at PhilaDelic 2023. Retreieved from https://youtu.be/pM9k1I3VPOg
Straumann, I., Ley, L., Holze, F. et al. Acute effects of MDMA and LSD co-administration in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy participants. Neuropsychopharmacol. (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-023-01609-0
In this video we discuss possible meaningful, novel, and non-trivial parallels between something like the Manhattan Project and what we need to do to catalyze a positive breakthrough in our understanding of consciousness.
We cover how explosive lenses have a parallel in the “brain as a non-linear optical computer” paradigm developed at QRI. The short explanation is that the “index of refraction” for local field potentials (LFPs) can be modulated with drugs/interventions, and so in principle one can use varying concentrations of things like nitrous oxide, ketamine, and MDMA in order to focus waves of energy to catalyze precisely crafted phase transitions of consciousness.
There are also much more subtle parallels. Another one is how the development of the von Neumann computer architecture was a world-transforming significant outcome of the Manhattan Project. In the context of consciousness research, one could envision figuring out the “principles of qualia computing” that allows DMT entities to sample from a wide range of possible “mind designs” as an achievement of comparable significance. Arguably most DMT entities are “psychotic”, but some of them aren’t; the way they copy, mutate, differentiate, and analyze “qualia bundles” hints at a very general set of qualia computing building blocks for alternative qualia-based information processing pipelines. The successful Manhattan Project of Consciousness could in principle lead to a revolution on computing paradigms that generalize to qualia computing systems.
In contrast to the atomic bomb, the kind of “phase transition implosion” developed at the Manhattan Project of Consciousness would be deeply relaxing, rejuvenating, and capable of undoing years of trauma in seconds. Using as research leads “candy flipping done right” (usually with some 2C-B/2C-D/2C-C), 5-MeO-DMT, and LSD + nitrous oxide, one has in fact a lot of hints for how to produce instantly relaxing, deeply healing “waves of enlightened qualia”.
Importantly, the combination of Open Individualism and Valence Realism might catalyze a paradigm shift on how we approach the game theory of human collectives.
If it takes a bunch of geniuses in the desert to figure out how to optimize this effect, so be it. It would be a really worthwhile investment!
~Qualia of the Day: The Burning Man Collective Intelligence~
Robin Hanson explores whatever he finds intellectually stimulating with a chance of being neglected, significant, and tractable (he is a real EA at heart according to this characterization, which I think is true). One of the topics that he explores is that of aliens and UFOs. In this video we bring together three of his models about aliens along with DMT phenomenology and QRI insights about how the mind works.
QRI sees DMT entities as “subagents gone wild” (cf. Aligning DMT Entities: Shards, Shoggoths, and Waluigis). The mind wants to predict sensory stimuli, and to do this effectively it needs to model other agents around itself. It’s not unlike how GPT-4 spins up agents in order to make predictions. This model allows you to “align” them in various ways, so it is practical. But what if at least some of these “entity contacts” are actually real, not just hallucinations?
The relevant Hanson models here are: 1) Grabby Aliens, where it is predicted that aliens that decide to expand will reach us in approximately a billion years. 2) UFOs are trying to domesticate us by making credible displays of high status. And 3) world politics converge on a mega-coalition that needs to spend a lot of resources reducing internal friction. More so, we can infer that these aliens decided not to expand, possibly due to risks (Dark Forest, Scary Singularities, and Rebellion Potential).
Well, the most compelling aspect of DMT entities is the *quality* of their experience. Their “vibe” can melt your heart. That’s so difficult to fake that it is, in many ways, way more impressive to a human than any kind of fancy clothes, gadgets, or physics displays. It is also unlikely that DMT entities and UFOs would be unrelated if they are both “real”. They would paint together a picture of the wider (multi)verse.
Based on credible phenomenological reports the kind of entity that you encounter depends on the “level” you go to. But any contact above Waiting Room tends to be really compelling for vibe reasons. It is then hypothesized that these experiences are akin to UFO encounters: the entities are trying to impress us so that we eventually, voluntarily, go along with their agenda.
Further reports indicate that if you want to “join as a citizen of the inter dimensional medium” you need to go through some kind of “sensitivity training”. We can infer from first principles, thus, that the largest coalition in the galaxy actually spends a lot of resources in reducing internal friction. They have a culture of diversity and inclusivity because that’s necessary to maintain enough cohesion across the coalition to stably rule over large distances. In other words, Hanson’s models 1), 2) and 3) have direct relevance in the context of making sense of the vast ecosystem of DMT entities (to the extent that one takes their independent existence seriously).
I then go ahead and proclaim that, really, we shouldn’t be pro-aliens or anti-aliens, but merely commit to “Team Consciousness”. In other words, we *still* have no idea if the UFOs and DMT entities out there (assuming they are not just internal hallucinations) are tending towards Pure Replicators or if they tilt towards benefiting consciousness. Without more information, it would be highly foolish to commit one way or the other. So rather than aligning with or against aliens/DMT beings, I simply say that we should continue to cultivate Team Consciousness first and foremost and let the rest sit until we have more information.
It is important to note that this model would also predict that there are “rebels” out there. It would be conceivable, thus, that the “malignant” entities some people encounter (either on DMT or UFOs) are members of a rebel coalition that is trying to avoid assimilation into the “Galactic Federation”. Hence there really is a good reason to be cautious about “who you talk to” in these spaces.
~Qualia of the Day: Royal Copenhagen~ A high-entropy alloy of scent that combines facets of powdery, aldehydic, aromatic, sweet/floral, citrus, honey, wood, musk, and lavender. It is a bizarre art-house non-fragrance fragrance. It signals you’re in Team Alien.
It will take place on Friday the 23rd, from noon to 2PM, in front of “The Dancers”.
This is right outside the conference venue, on the side of Champa street.
Please feel free to come whether you’re attending Psychedelic Science or not, whether you identify as someone who is QRI-adjacent or not, and whether you agree with QRI ideas or not.
If you’re reading this, you and your friends are invited.
Address: 1185-1245 Champa St, Denver, CO 80204
See you there!
Ps. There is a good chance (*crossing fingers*) that we will get a space at the conference venue to project Psychedelic Cryptography videos. If this happens, it will probably take place sometime Thursday or Friday afternoon.
1) Explore the state-space of consciousness because you want to know it for yourself
2) Study it from many points of view because you want to understand it intellectually at a deep level
3) Intend to apply it for the benefit of all beings
I really like meditation, but I have never been a fan of not understanding how it works rationally. It seems to me that doing powerful things to your state of consciousness without having a good sense of what is going on can open you up to unfounded beliefs.
As I’ve gone deeper into meditation and energetic practices, though, I’ve come to realize that one can in fact make rational sense of what is happening. This guided meditation series condenses this knowledge into 9 sets of practices that have transparent and interpretable effects.
I go over the basics of how the mind works, with principles like what you pay attention to gets energized, energizing an internal representation highlights its resonant modes, sufficiently energized representations become plastic and malleable, and certain vibratory qualities feel better than others because they spread out stress more uniformly.
And then, with the basics covered, we go on to play and construct interesting states of mind, including heavenly realms of experience and computationally non-trivial mind acrobatics.
No magic needed; just curiosity and openness of being.
I hope you enjoy and learn from it! And also please feel encouraged to share feedback or reports of how it went for you.
The Varieties of Attention
This is a guided meditation provided by Andrés in order to enrich one’s conception of the nature of “attention”.
Attention is typically thought of as a fuzzy “spotlight” that redirects cognitive resources to a region of one’s experience. But this is just one of many varieties of attention. In fact, many changes to one’s state of consciousness have very little to do with changes to perceptual features like color, brightness, auditory pitch, tactile sensations, or the texture of thought. At times, one can tell that one’s state of consciousness has changed dramatically and yet it is very hard to pin-point exactly what that change consists of. In many of those cases, that’s because the change is primarily attentional. Thus, learning about alternative modes of attention is an important tool to enable higher quality phenomenological reports and replications. It has the added bonus that knowing a broad range of attentional modes can radically enhance one’s meditation practice.
Join us in this guided meditation to get acquainted with a much broader set of attentional modes.
In this guided meditation Andrés walks you through a variety of methods to modulate the “energy parameter” of experience. This is a building block for the framework of Neural Annealing in the nervous system, which explores how (suitably defined) energy impacts internal representations, facilitates solving constraint satisfaction problems, and has the potential to lead to sustainable high valence states of consciousness by reducing internal stress.
We explore energy sources such as (a) sensory input, (b) pleasure and pain, (c) attention, (d) and surprise. Additionally a wide range of techniques for how to build, manage, and skillfully deploy the energy are discussed and practiced.
In this guided meditation Andrés helps you explore the way in which attention constructs local binding connections between phenomenal features and how the flow of attention and awareness can be modeled with the graph algorithm called PageRank.
Review of the nature of attention: what you pay attention gets stronger, gets locally bound, and gets connected to what you were paying attention right before
Noticing local binding in See, Hear, Feel (inner & outer)
Cross-modal coupling: divide and conquer technique for preventing negative valence and a coherence technique to enhance positive valence
Oscillatory complementarity between awareness and attention
How objects of perception can play the role of witnesses and witnessed elements of a scene
Hybrid attentional modes
Chains of witnessing and Nth-order intentionality
PageRank of attention
Space witnessing space
These are all very helpful techniques and insights to practice and add to your Qualia Mastery Toolkit.
The Thermodynamics of Consciousness and the Ecosystem of Agents
In this guided meditation Andrés walks you through QRI’s recent work on:
The Thermodynamics of Consciousness: how energy flows from energy sources (sensory stimulation, valence, attention, surprise, and the background noise signature) towards the bound field of consciousness, which is then shaped via the energy sink landscape of symmetry and recognition, and then exit via motor action or “outer field radiation”.
The Ecosystem of Agents: our minds work somewhat similar to a next-token prediction engine like GPT-4, where the existing constraints help resolve the ambiguity of the regions of experience which remain amorphous. In order to make accurate predictions of the world, we need to actually simulate agentive behavior (because the world of full of agents). To do this we create “subagents” that play the role of agentive forces so that we can predict them (and ultimately remain safe).
The meditation also walks through a series of strategies for dealing with subagents in order to harmonize them and experience a healthy and wholesome ecosystem of friendly subagents that help each other in beautiful ways:
Improve the training data
Practice the meditation where you guide lost subagents to a pool of love that re-absorbs them
Good vibes as base: your mood provides the evolutionary selection pressures for agentive forces, so cultivating beautiful mindsets will enable more friendly agents to arise
More Dakka on equanimity and metta
Reward clean intentions before flattery (there’s a vibe to transparent intentions)
Explore different network structures for agents that are more easily manageable
High-Valence Calisthenics – Exploring the Heaven Worlds
In this guided meditation Andrés walks you through a wide range of possible high-valence states of consciousness, aka. phenomenal “heaven worlds”.
Calisthenics are exercises that you can perform with minimal equipment and that are intended to exercise every muscle group in the body. Now what would it mean to do “meditation calisthenics”? Well, that you exercise every kind of meditative approach in order to keep all of your “meditation muscles” fit. More specifically, “high-valence calisthenics” would be the practice of engaging with every kind of positive valence state of consciousness achievable without the aid of external aids (whether chemical, sensorial, or situational).
In this guided meditation we go through the high-valence configurations of “see, hear, feel” (inner & outer), artistic states of consciousness, social mindsets, metta, “cosmic party mode”, the worlds of insight, intellectual understanding, realization, and the modes of being of refined and purified high-valence (Jhanas).
We conclude by dedicating these beautiful qualities of the mind for the benefit of all beings.
“Calisthenics (American English) or callisthenics (British English) (/ˌkælɪsˈθɛnɪks/) is a form of strength training consisting of a variety of movements that exercise large muscle groups (gross motor movements), such as standing, grasping, pushing, etc. These exercises are often performed rhythmically and with minimal equipment, as bodyweight exercises. They are intended to increase strength, fitness, and flexibility, through movements such as pulling, pushing, bending, jumping, or swinging, using one’s body weight for resistance in pull-ups, push-ups, squats, etc. Calisthenics can provide the benefits of muscular and aerobic conditioning, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility, and coordination.” (source)
Divine Qualia – Open Sourcing God
Without making any ontological, philosophical, or metaphysical assertions or assumptions, we point out that the phenomenology of the divine and in particular the concept of “God” has an important resonance for the human soul. Therefore exploring this phenomenology is essential for a complete direct understanding of consciousness.
In this guided meditation Andrés walks you through an exploration of the phenomenology of different conceptions of the divine. The key guiding question for this exploration is: what does it feel like to inhabit the phenomenal world in which God is conceived in this or that way? Rather than pursuing a specific conception, we instead engage in an open ended exploration of the divine for the sake of developing Qualia Mastery. We call this approach “Open Sourcing God”, where one is not dependent on other’s interpretations or rules to access the God of one’s own understanding.
Conceptions of the divine explored include Chaos, Ingroup, Hierarchy, Creator, The Law, Archetype, Replication, Dynamics, Life, Energy, Coincidence and Synchronicity, Love, Compassion, Witness, Consciousness, Awareness, Oneness, Axis of Annealing, and Valence.
In this guided meditation Andrés walks you through a series of exercises that illustrates harmonic resonance in the energy body and then channels excess energy into high-valence tactile sensations (cf. Piti), which can be a possible foundation practice for the 1st Jhana.
The meditation focuses on the inner and outer “feel” channels for (see, hear feel) X (inner, outer) as formulated by the “factorization of experience” introduced by Shinzen Young in his Unified Mindfulness framework. When necessary feel free to use the inner and outer “see” channel for support, but try to keep “feel” primary. We explore the following kinds of oscillations:
Toroidal flow (up, down, both at once)
Homogenous attention in space
Space qualities: solid, liquid, magnetic, viscosity, gaseous, plasma
Pleasure, joy, peace
Laminal flow and energy management techniques
It is recommended that one first listens to the guided meditations about Energy, Attention, and Valence of this Qualia Mastery series before doing this one.
In this guided meditation Andrés guides you through what believing in different ontologies feels like.
Without making any claim (implicit or otherwise) about the nature of reality, one can still explore the phenomenology of ontology. Namely, explore what it is like to inhabit a phenomenal word in which the building blocks of reality are rendered as being this or that.
At a very high level, one key insight is that one can notice how different facets of one’s experience reify, solidity, and rigidify an ontology. For example, this shows up in “dualism”. In this ontology, one posits that the universe has both matter and mind. This has the tendency to trigger the feeling of being encased or trapped in your body. But pay attention! If you notice carefully, you will realize that this is implemented with somatic feelings that rigidify the sense of being caged inside your body. This sense is, ultimately, a fabrication, rather than a realization. It’s just how the mind chooses to render that particular sense of reality.
Following this insight, we notice how there is a transmutation from the ontology one believes in, into a characteristic phenomenology of existence (and back). In fact, “the pain of dualism” is a feedback loop that involves somatic sensations, and not something intrinsic to a belief system. Similarly, every other ontology tends to trigger phenomenological feedback loops for its rendering. Pay attention! 🙂
The ontologies we explore in this meditation include:
(1) Dualism: Mind and matter. (2) Trinitarianism of matter, consciousness, and space. (3) Atomism – we know that science confirmed the ancient view of atomism, but notice how without some kind of holism/binding, only “mind dust” can exist. (4) Jain ontology (in which there are ~9 fundamental kinds of ontological building blocks of reality) – space, time, dynamism (movement and rest), atoms that can combine, the soul, and all kinds of “karma particles”. (5) Monism – It’s all qualia. It’s all awareness. It’s all information. It’s all algorithms or computation. It’s all belief. It’s all a social construction (cf. Strong Tlon Hypothesis) (6) Ontologies of infinities. (7) Ontologies of Zero. In particular, we zoom in on David Pearce’s Zero Ontology, in which the reason why there is something rather than nothing is that “zero information” is the case (and this implies the existence of all mutually-consistent universes of bound qualia).
This last ontology is particularly powerful: when explored deeply, it can trigger the “Rainbow God” phenomenology, where all of the flavors of qualia come together and “cancel each other out”. This is highly related to the phenomenology of 5-MeO-DMT as well as that of the formless Jhanas.
I am delighted to say that I will be delivering a workshop at Vibe Camp on Saturday the 17th of June:
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Fire Circle
Title: Explore the State-Space of Consciousness with QRI – GET YOUR VIBE CAMP RECORDER (scent)
Description: Come to learn useful techniques to navigate the state-space of consciousness and pick up your VCR (Vibe Camp Recorder), a scent created in honor of this event, which will “record” this day forever in your memory. It is both pleasant and very distinctive, so that every time you smell it again you will vividly remember this day.
Talk Abstract: The paradigm of Neural Annealing developed at the Qualia Research Institute (QRI) by Andrés Gómez Emilsson and Michael E. Johnson has a lot of explanatory power in the context of meditation and exotic states of consciousness such as those induced by psychedelic agents. The theory posits that there is a sense in which each state of consciousness has an associated level of energy, that there are specific energy sinks and sources in the nervous system, and that internal representations can be modified (and indeed “internal stress” released) with an appropriate heating and cooling schedule (aka. neural annealing). More recently, the theory has been enriched with “non-linear wave computing“, which might be capable of formalizing the concept of a (phenomenal) “vibe” for internal representations. Of special interest for the scientific community studying psychedelics and meditation is the recent QRI model of Neural Field Annealing, which combines Hebbian learning with Neural Annealing in order to explain why “highly annealed brains” can instantiate harmonic field behavior (such as the Jhanas). In this talk Andrés will provide an overview of the theory, share empirical findings, and discuss its testability based on its unique predictions.
The boundary problem is related to the binding problem, part of a family of puzzles and phenomenal experiences that theories of consciousness (ToC) must either explain or eliminate. By comparison with the phenomenal binding problem, the boundary problem has received very little scholarly attention since first framed in detail by Rosengard in 1998, despite discussion by Chalmers in his widely cited 2016 work on the combination problem. However, any ToC that addresses the binding problem must also address the boundary problem. The binding problem asks how a unified first person perspective (1PP) can bind experiences across multiple physically distinct activities, whether billions of individual neurons firing or some other underlying phenomenon. To a first approximation, the boundary problem asks why we experience hard boundaries around those unified 1PPs and why the boundaries operate at their apparent spatiotemporal scale. We review recent discussion of the boundary problem, identifying several promising avenues but none that yet address all aspects of the problem. We set out five specific boundary problems to aid precision in future efforts. We also examine electromagnetic (EM) field theories in detail, given their previous success with the binding problem, and introduce a feature with the necessary characteristics to address the boundary problem at a conceptual level. Topological segmentation can, in principle, create exactly the hard boundaries desired, enclosing holistic, frame-invariant units capable of effecting downward causality. The conclusion outlines a programme for testing this concept, describing how it might also differentiate between competing EM ToCs.
QRI’s Consciousness Art Contests: Immerse, Innovate, and Inspire
Congratulations to the winners of QRI’s Art Contests! (contest announcement). Many thanks to all of the participants! You guys did really great! We will share all of the submissions for which the artists gave us permission to post in the near future; and in my opinion, there were simply too many amazing submissions that didn’t get a prize. We asked the community for awesome content, and they delivered!
Psychedelic Epistemology: The Think Tank Approach
I want to express gratitude to the panel of judges who diligently worked to evaluate each of the submissions along key dimensions in agreement with the contest specifications. To provide a little background about the panel, I should mention that since early 2020 QRI has been periodically hosting a “Phenomenology Club” by invitation only which gathers top scientists, philosophers, artists, meditators, and psychonauts. We usually choose a particular topic to discuss (e.g. comparing specific kinds of pains or pleasures), or otherwise interview someone with extensive experience with a particular facet of consciousness. For example, we once interviewed three people all of whom have tried taking 5-MeO-DMT in high doses every day for at least a month (i.e. Leo Gura isn’t the only one who has done this!). Really, we are able to do this because QRI has functioned as a beacon to attract highly experienced rational psychonauts and people seriously interested about the nature of consciousness since ~2017. It is out of this pool of world-class phenomenologists from which the panel of judges was formed. The panel includes people who have had over 1,000 high-dose experiences with LSD, psilocybin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, dissociatives, and a vast experience with meditative practices like the Jhanas and the process of insight. More so, in order to evaluate the PsyCrypto submission, some of the judges took psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca in a place where it is legal to do so. They all gathered to look at and discuss the submissions sober, then while on mushrooms, then sober again, then while on ayahuasca, and then sober again, and only then they were told about the “encryption key” the contestants submitted, and then they had yet another chance to look at them on either mushrooms or ayahuasca while knowing what it is that they were supposed to see. Most of the judges reported that the winning submissions did in fact work. So I am fairly confident that they do.
Similarly, for the Replications contest, the judges looked at the submissions before, during, and after mushrooms and ayahuasca so that they would have a very fresh impression of what these states are like in order to make accurate and technically precise judgements. Hence the detailed and object-level feedback for the top 10 submissions we were able to provide.
Importantly, at QRI we believe that this is the kind of “facing up to the empirical facts” of psychedelic states of consciousness that will actually advance the science of consciousness (aka. the “think tank approach“). This approach stands in stark contrast with, just to give an example: giving surveys to drug-naïve individuals (exclusion criteria incl. “lifetime prevalence of hallucinogens or MDMA use >20 times”) and having them blindly try either LSD or “candy flipping” [MDMA + LSD], a methodology that apparently allows you to conclude that MDMA doesn’t add anything noteworthy to the experience:
As a simple metaphor, imagine what would it take to make genuine progress in the science of electromagnetism. Would you approach the problem of figuring out how magnets work by putting people who have never seen magnets in a room to play with them for a few minutes and then asking them to fill out a questionnaire about their experience? Or… would it perhaps be more fruitful to gather a team of top mathematicians and visual artists who are very experienced magnet-users and allow them to play with them in any way they want, talk extensively with one another, and generate models, predictions, and visualizations of the phenomenon at hand? Which approach do you think would have better chances of arriving at a derivation of Maxwell’s Equations?
Well, you probably know my answer to that question, as QRI is “Psychedelic Think Tank Approach Central”, and we are damn proud of it 🙂
It’s amazing to me how people feel, at times, in a hurry to try to explain away anything interesting involving psychedelics with catch-all ideas like “it’s just slower processing” or “it’s just the result of messing with feedback, nothing to see here” (cf. Need For Closure Scale).
The winners of the PsyCrypto contest used the lowest hanging fruit idea for how to do PsyCrypto. It’s amazing that it works, and it does show a computational advantage that isn’t present in normal states of consciousness. And this isn’t trivial! In fact tracers in general affect how you think at a deep level, allowing for thoughts and feelings that never overlap in everyday life to actually show up together in your experiential field at once. This lingering effect increases the internal cross-pollination of information categories in one’s mind. This allows you to make completely new connections in your mind; hooking tracers with field computing is computationally non-trivial. More on this later.
But… also there is a plethora of more sophisticated approaches. I won’t say much more right now, but essentially PsyCrypto can be done in entirely different ways than using tracers. This includes things like pareidolia, color gradients, and detection of movement. And it is these novel approaches that will show the even more interesting computational advantages to the state.
We ain’t seen nothing yet. We’re at the dawn of a new era 🙂
Now, in the wake of our announcement of the PsyCrypto winners, as I very much anticipated, I got an email from Vice:
I’m a science reporter for VICE. Great to be in touch.I’m reaching out about the results of the Qualia Research Institute’s Psychedelic Cryptography Contest, which is a story we’d love to share with our readers.
I was hoping you could answer a few questions about the contest. I wrote them out here in case it’s more convenient to respond over email, but I’m also available for a phone or Zoom call anytime before 3:30pm Eastern Daylight Time today if that works better. Thanks so much and hope to connect.
1. First, I’d love to know what inspired this contest. What are you and your colleagues at QRI hoping to learn and achieve with the Psychedelic Cryptography Contest?
2. On the page announcing the results, you note that “only three submissions seemed to have any promising psychedelic cryptography effects” and that “to decode these pieces you do require a substantial level of tracers.” Why were these three submissions so much more effective than the rest of entries to this contest? Were they the only ones to use the “first classic PsyCrypto encoding method” that is described in your recent blog post, or was there another reason they stood out from the rest?
3. You note that these PsyCrypto experiments can open up new avenues of research in the fields of neuroscience and consciousness. What are some of the open questions in these fields that you think PsyCrypto encoding could help to constrain or resolve?
4. Last, do you and your colleagues QRI have any plans to build on these findings about PsyCrypto with other future studies, contests, or related projects?
Much appreciated! Best, XXXX
Sent June 6 at 9:05 AM
And my response:
Awesome! Science reporter? It sounds like we’re getting an upgrade 🙂 QRI, that is. Mom, I’m on Vice!
Ok, forgive that. I’m just very stoked about the warm reception that PsyCrypto has been getting in the last couple of days. We made it into the front page of Hacker News and I’ve been receiving emails from neuroscientists and artists. […]. So I’m in a good mood 🙂
I’m more than happy to answer your questions here.
1. I first came up with the idea of PsyCrypto over 10 years ago, while in grad school. I was throwing into the air some spinning glow sticks in the darkness and noticing the patterns that would arise from their trajectory in space. I realized that the lighting conditions were ideal for me to actually make sense of their movement, and wondered if it would be in fact easier to see that path while on psychedelics, given their well-known tracer effects. I immediately coded up some experiments to hide letters using that idea and gave the code to some friends, who then reported some mild but noticeable improved ability to read them while on LSD. After that, I brainstormed a number of alternative encoding methods, coined the term Psychedelic Cryptography, and a couple of years later wrote the Qualia Computing article you saw.
Now, this didn’t happen in a vacuum. Already in 2011 I was a fan of David Pearce and his philosophy of mind (see physicalism.com). In essence, his view is that consciousness evolved because it has information processing advantages. In particular, phenomenal binding, he believes, is not a classical phenomenon. It is in fact enormously computationally beneficial, as we can learn from disorders of consciousness where binding partially breaks down.
So even then I was actively in the lookout for ways to demonstrate how consciousness actually confers an information processing advantage. And psychedelics, to me, felt like very fertile territory to explore this idea. In essence, people have reported all sorts of information processing benefits from psychedelics (e.g. the classic study of Harman and Fadiman of psychedelics for problem solving). But this is still controversial, so to me PsyCrypto is a way to show the undeniable benefits (and tradeoffs!) in terms of information processing that different states of consciousness confer.
The more PsyCrypto encoding schemes are identified and developed, the more this research direction is advanced. It is the emerging field of “Qualia Computing”. Namely, the study of the ways in which consciousness is computationally non-trivial. 🙂
We believe that the contest furthers this mission, and that opening up the project to a broader audience, with prizes and recognition for winning, can drastically accelerate this research direction.
2. The top three submissions were the only ones that worked at all according to our team of expect phenomenologists. They tried really, really hard to find messages in every submission while on mushrooms and ayahuasca (at places where these substances are perfectly legal) and none of the other submissions had anything worth commenting on (sorry!). I think many people misunderstood the task, tried something random without checking if it works first, or simply crossed their fingers and hoped.that their images would look different enough on psychedelics to contain new and meaningful information. But alas, no. Only the three winners had anything resembling PsyCrypto in them. And to top it off, they were also very aesthetically pleasing. So they are, in my mind, real rockstars 🙂
I do expect a dramatic improvement in the quality of submissions next time we run this contest, though.
Very importantly, based on recent work at QRI, I am convinced that there are at least 3-4 completely new and mind-blowing ways to achieve PsyCrypto that do not use tracers at all. The tracers are, in a way, the trivial case. The new PsyCrypto encoding schemes are… Far more surprising and non-trivial. We will publish more information about them in the near future.
3. Yes, absolutely. In essence, I believe that novel PsyCrypto encoding schemes are a window into the actual information processing algorithms of the visual system. At the risk of sounding fringe, I am not impressed with the current mainstream neuroscience models of how psychedelics work or how they alter visual perception. Yes, one can see tunnels and 2D symmetrical tessellations while on psychedelics. But actually… One can *also* experience hyperbolic honeycombs, 4D projective transformations, and fast spatiotemporal Fourier transforms of non-linear resonance. I am sorry, but no current neuroscientific theory *predicts* this. So we are currently in what David Pearce calls the pre-Galilean era for theories of consciousness. Like the (apocryphal) story of the priests not wanting to look through the telescope of Galileo because “the Bible already tells you the truth about the heavens”, similarly right now most theories of how the visual system work are not taking into account the facts of what happens on, say, DMT. Don’t ever let the theory dictate the facts! Instead, let the facts dictate the theory (see: my presentation about psychedelic epistemology).
Therefore we think that by developing encryption schemes that use *phenomenological facts* such as hyperbolic geometry on DMT (https://youtu.be/loCBvaj4eSg) we will radically transform the conversation about how consciousness works and what its information processing properties are. Once you show that those geometries can be used for information processing, and that humans in the right state of consciousness display such advantages, then it becomes undeniable that they are in fact using such exotic geometry for computation. I believe this will set the trajectory of the history of consciousness in very unexpected ways. Indeed, superintelligence won’t be achieved with AI, but with consciousness engineering.
4. Yes. Now, please note that PsyCrypto and in fact psychedelic phenomenology research is only a part of what the Qualia Research Institute does. We have serious work in philosophy of mind, ethics, valence, neurotechnology, and neuroscience, to name a few. We are extremely prolific given our shoestring budget, tiny number of members, and relatively low profile in academia. But I am confident that as we keep producing world class outputs in all of these fields, QRI will become far more influential and mainstream 🙂
Ultimately, my mission is to prevent all future suffering (see my TEDx talk) and figure out how to enable all sentient beings to experience long-term sustainable blissful states at will. This mission is enormously ambitious, but hey, that’s what I want to do with this one life I have. And so is the mission of the other members of QRI. Let’s get to work! 🙂
Thank you! And please let me know if I can clarify anything.
Sent via email June 6 at 4:30PM
And given this, I really thought that the resulting Vice post was actually really stellar. Thank you! 🙂
We titled the series Qualia Mastery – Building Your Toolkit for Navigating the State-Space of Consciousness.
Qualia Mastery, a concept I introduced in a review of a Jhana meditation retreat, is, in a nutshell, the self-organizing vector that cultivates the tools and practices needed to achieve the following three goals:
1) Explore the state-space of consciousness because you want to know it for yourself
2) Study it from many points of view because you want to understand it intellectually at a deep level
3) Intend to apply it for the benefit of all beings
May this be of benefit to you and all sentient beings! And also, have fun!
I was on a retreat in France at the Chateau du Buffalo with some friends this April using the fire kasina as object, this occurring just a few days from the time I retired from emergency medicine.
Emergency medicine makes for great stories and terrible dreams, and I was having multiple dreams per night that were basically the ER equivalent of the classic college dreams in which you are late for an exam and can’t find your pencil and didn’t study and can’t find the room and all of that, except that this is the bloody-people-are-dying-gory-agony-and-carnage version, based on the hundreds of really bad things I saw and dealt with over my medical career.
Me and my ER colleagues would sometimes talk amongst ourselves about “micro-PTSD”, a sort of cumulative pile on of hundreds of bad situations that collectively add up to something significant, written deep into the brain by high doses of adrenalin and cortisol, and pressure to make everything alright, often in situations where everything is not going to be alright. We all have our list of the worst moments, sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Those experiences were coming up heavily in my dreams, as if retiring somehow let my guard down and this huge backlog of partially processed experiences came flooding in. My dreams have often had qualities that most people would consider pretty nightmarish since I was a child, so I am used to them and handle them well, but still, they are not pleasant.
After about a week of this on retreat happening night after night, I sat down one morning for the first sit of the day, and the moment I sat down this extremely powerful, thick, steady bliss rapidly established itself and just stayed there. Additionally, and here’s some woo woo stuff, I could suddenly see my aura, and it looked like the field you would see around a bar magnet, like a toroid, but this time in primary blue and very stable. Space turned whitish, but the blue aura was still very clear. I sat there a while with not much else going on, maybe for 5 minutes or so, just hanging out.
Then, in that very odd space, one of the standard canon of bad images from my medical career arose, except that it arose like an iphone app icon, flat, about 1 cm wide, with rounded edges, and the image was like a little cute stylized logo rather than the full 3D gory image it typically would be when it would come up, and it just sort of rotated a bit in space and vanished, not disturbing the bliss in the slightest, which was relatively steady and impressively strong (I’d give it an 8/10 on the bliss scale, with 10 being the strongest bliss I have ever experienced), and the thought arose, “Hey, I wonder if it would do that to the rest of the standard list of bad experiences?”
So, I started bringing up the images, one by one, initially all of them from my medical career: horrible images, bad situations, dead kids, legs torn off, maggots crawling out of rotting limbs, skulls smashed in, people screaming as they died in puddles of blood, you know, the usual ER stuff. One by one, they all became cute little icons like the first one did, rotated a bit, and vanished. None touched the bliss at all, which remained heavy and strong. The aura stayed blue and like a perfectly regular toroid. Space stayed whitish. Soon enough, I ran out of troubling ER images, which is saying something, as there were a lot of them, as the time from calling each one up to it iconizing and vanishing only took a few seconds per image, and finally, nothing else came to mind from my medical career and training, and I sat there a few moments. That whole process took only a few minutes.
I started on other traumas, bad situations, car accidents I had been in, traumatic breakups, bad childhood stuff, physical injuries, broken bones, surgeries, illnesses, and other unfortunate incidents that happened along the way, and one by one, they all turned into little flat, stylized icons like the others had and vanished, and the bliss stayed totally unperturbed, and the aura held steady, and space stayed white. After only a few minutes, I had exhausted even the standard canon of images from my life’s major and even some minor traumas, all rapidly turning into little, pretty, flat icons, all vanishing, all not impinging on the bliss in the slightest. It was like the ultimate version of the IOB (Identify, Objectify, and Banish), except much cuter than this is typically described and a lot more pleasant.
With nothing left to bliss-iconize, and wondering how breakfast was coming along, after sitting on the cushion for only about 10 minutes, this process seemed complete, so I got up to go to the kitchen. My body had that loose, slightly weak, a bit shuddery feeling that I have when I have swum a mile or two fast and then get back on land, but felt very light at the same time as if I had had a very hard cry, yet I hadn’t cried at all, it just felt like I had afterwards.
The gory ER dreams ended immediately, and I have felt vastly lighter since that brief meditation period, like it cleared out a massive amount of old stuff in some seemingly definitive way.
I have no idea if this is something that other people could intentionally do, but, if it was, it would be extremely helpful. So, should heavy, seemingly inviolable bliss arise, and if you have your own list of traumatic life events to bliss-iconize, might give this a shot and see how it goes.
Three cheers for the Dharma! Yay! What wonderful things can come from practice! Best wishes,
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”)
Exotic Physical Memory Mechanisms
Archetypical Attractor Basins
(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 moreconventional 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.
Come and meet other like-minded and like-hearted people who are curious about these topics in order to share fun experiences, listen to a comedy sketch about consciousness, experience exotic scents, and taste the bliss of a heartfelt community in a cozy plant-filled Oasis at the heart of SF!
2PM – Setup (feel free to join and help) 2:30PM – Start, casual (and causal!) hangout 3PM – Drinks, snacks, and music-sharing 4PM – QRI scent workshop delivered by yours truly* 5PM – Comedy sketch and talk about the binding problem and aligning DMT entities 6PM – Participants share the experiences they brought 7PM – Food (catered**) 7:30PM – Participants can give a 5 minute speech (there will be a signup sheet) 8:30PM – Start of takedown 9PM – Everybody out, afterparty***
Please feel encouraged to bring with you an experience to share with others (your ~Qualia of the Day~) at 6PM! This can be exotic candy, spices, perfumes, special massagers or haptic devices, unusual sounds, weird concepts, brief meditation, etc.
One Embarcadero Center (Third Floor, Next to the Cinema), San Francisco, CA 94111. The venue is at the Embarcadero Building furthest away from the water, on the third floor (“promenade level”). You can get there via the elevator (“Floor P”) or by taking the escalator, and then the stairs, following the signs pointing you to the (now defunct) Cinema. It’s a big red building, right next to a large Maple tree.
After mulling it over for a bit and letting reflective equilibrium naturally arise, I came to the conclusion that my strange reaction to these fashion shows was indeed a symptom of spiritual decadence:
This is why we introduced VALENCIAGA by QRI. The first valence-centric luxury brand that aims to focus on the actual pursuit of altruistic bliss. Yes, it’s hot, sexy, and above all attractive. But at the same time, the dopaminergic wrapper hides within a core of real Jhanic bliss (unlike the amphetamine-comedown textures of qualia hiding behind your prototypical New York fashion houses).
Thus, for this QRI meetup you are encouraged to come in a fashionable, qualia-rich attire that makes you *feel* like you just came down from the 7th Jhana or your bliss-state of choice.
Looking forward to seeing you!
Note: We originally kept this meetup low-key on the basis that we were worried that the venue might reach its maximum capacity. After learning more about the venue, we are confident that it will hold up. And if we do experience overflow, don’t worry! There is a park nearby (Sue Bierman Park) which we can use as a buffer where you can hang out with others until there’s enough space for you. This is also why this announcement is in such a short notice. Sorry!
* You will have an opportunity to test (and purchase!) our exclusiveQRI Scents, including the mythical Hedonium Shockwave. ** You can, and are encouraged to, bring vegetarian food, drinks, and snacks to share. *** Location in Berkeley with capacity for up to 40 people (from 9PM): 2042 Hearst ave apt c Berkeley CA very close to the downtown Berkeley BART
The Qualia Research Institute (QRI) is excited to announce the launch of three Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness (NSCs) Art Contests: Immerse, Innovate, and Inspire with submissions accepted until 5/17/2023. Examples of non-ordinary states of consciousness are psychedelic experiences, meditative experiences like the jhanas, and near-death experiences.
Our objective is to highlight the reciprocal relationship between art and consciousness research, enabling artists to create lifelike representations of non-ordinary states of consciousness, and contribute to the development of consciousness studies and psychedelic science.
About the Qualia Research Institute
The Qualia Research Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing our understanding of consciousness. Its mission is to:
Develop a precise mathematical language for describing subjective experience
Map out the full range of possible conscious experiences
Build technologies to improve the lives of sentient beings
Replication Contest (Immerse): Entries will be judged based on transparent and interpretable qualities that accurately capture the low-level subjective effects experienced in non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Psychedelic Cryptography Contest (Innovate): Artists are invited to create encodings of sensory information that are only meaningful when experienced on psychedelics in order to show the specific information-processing advantages of those states.
For the sake of transparency and to benefit the community as a whole, QRI reserves the right to publish the winning submissions made by contestants on its website. Artists retain their intellectual property rights, allowing them control over their artwork’s use and distribution. However, QRI would appreciate permission to showcase participants’ art on our website or use it in potential research publications with proper citations and links to the artists’ work.
We understand that the replication contest may not capture the full complexity and nuances of psychedelic experiences, and that there are concerns about the potential harm associated with the use of psychedelics. Participation in these contests does not require the use of psychedelics, and we encourage all participants to prioritize their safety and well-being.
We welcome feedback and suggestions for future contests at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to exploring these topics responsibly and respectfully.
The Replication Contest seeks to celebrate the artistic capabilities of participants in accurately depicting and interpreting the low-level subjective effects experienced in non-ordinary states of consciousness (NSCs), with a particular emphasis on (1) valence effects and (2) geometric transformations.
Valence effects focus on demonstrating how the shape of the experience can reveal whether a person is having a clean and blissful experience or a mixed affect experience. The transition between feeling normal and feeling blissful might involve changes to the shape of the visual experience. Rather than focusing on the semantic content (e.g. seeing an angel) here the point is to visualize the texture, shape, and dynamics that bring about this change (e.g. harmonizing flow by reducing turbulence).
Geometric transformations such as rotations, reflections, glides, affine transformations, and so on often feature in psychedelic experiences. Can this be rendered in a realistic way? We suggest that you consider how symmetry and geometry are two sides of the same coin in order to better appreciate this quality of psychedelic experiences. When the geometry of phenomenal space changes, so do the symmetries within it. Can this be expressed artistically in an accurate way?
To participate, artists should create a piece of art that embodies the subjective effects they have researched or encountered during NSCs, emphasizing the two highlighted areas.
Visualize an annealing process where the video contains blinking lights driven by metronomes that can sync up with each other until the whole scene is shining in a coherent way (cf. Neural Annealing).
Show how bouba vs. kiki imagery highlight different emotional tones during a psychedelic experience (cf. CDNS in Quantifying Bliss), where spiky feelings tend to be harsh and disquieting, whereas bubbly and round features tend to be calming and welcoming (extra points if these features emerge out of some kind of annealing process, or if you find counterexamples to this general pattern).
Visualize how wallpaper symmetry groups transform textures into repeating patterns.
Show waves interacting with each other in order to construct psychedelic interference patterns (cf. non-linear wave computing)
Use hyperbolic minimal surfaces in order to exemplify how sensations aggregate on DMT.
Show how the Reverse-Grassfire Algorithm can create 3D crystals (cf. Harmonic Gestalt).
Show a 2D Euclidean grid becoming hyperbolic by adding additional nodes and edges in order to demonstrate a change of geometry (cf. world-sheet).
Model the the experience of achieving a DMT breakthrough level experience using a physical instability (such as Kelvin-Helmholtz).
These are just some suggestions and there are many other ways of connecting technical descriptions of the phenomenology of NSE and visual replications. It helps if you can ground the effects visualized on paradigms and explanations presented by QRI, but it is not necessary to win the contest. What matters is that you can create realistic yet interpretable visualizations that hint at the underlying processes that are generating these experiences. What we are after is insight. In other words, we want to be able to discover new, meaningful, and non-trivial explanations for why NSEs manifest in the way they do. Hence, being able to describe how the replication effects are achieved is highly beneficial.
Entries will be judged based on the number and precision of replicated subjective effects, with special attention given to valence effects and geometric transformations.
The Psychedelic Cryptography Contest invites artists to create unique encodings of sensory information that are only meaningful when experienced on psychedelics. The goal is to challenge participants to develop innovative methods of encoding sensory information in such a way that an encoded secret is only apparent on a NSC. The contest encourages the exploration of how sensory information can be modulated and presented in a way that reveals hidden patterns or messages when experienced under the influence of psychedelics.
Entries will be judged based on the difficulty of the encryption method used and the clarity of the message or pattern when experienced on psychedelics.
The Inspirational Piece Contest seeks to highlight the powerful connection between art and consciousness research by encouraging artists to create pieces that exemplify this relationship. The focus of this contest is on originality, creativity, inspiration, impact, quality, and execution. Artworks submitted for this contest should evoke a sense of wonder and curiosity about the nature of consciousness and the vast landscape of possible experiences.
Entries will be judged based on originality, creativity, inspiration, impact, quality, and execution, with winners determined by a public poll.
Why it’s helpful: This article presents 8 models of art: 4 common ones, and 4 that connect it to consciousness studies. The overall frameworks of 8 models might help us arrive at methods to create innovative aesthetic qualia from first principles. We think that artists participating in any of the contests might benefit from the vocabulary introduced in these models to create innovative and meaningful pieces that explore the relationship between art and consciousness research. In particular, taking into account the energy parameter, efficient state-space exploration, annealing effects, and the vision of a meta-aesthetic all provide a unique lens for how psychedelics and art are so connected.
Why it’s helpful: This article discusses possible methods of communication that can be understood primarily by individuals under the influence of LSD and other tracer-inducing psychoactives. This may serve as inspiration for artists to think about novel ways to encode information or create unique experiences tailored to specific states of consciousness.
Why it’s helpful: This article provides a detailed analysis of how the visual effects of psychedelics might be understood and replicated using algorithmic processes. It can serve as a foundation for artists attempting to replicate the visual aspects of non-ordinary states of consciousness in their artwork, or as inspiration to propose alternative algorithmic reductions that capture effects that are currently unaccounted for.
Why it’s helpful: This article explores the connection between the subjective effects of DMT experiences and hyperbolic geometry, various possible algorithmic reductions to explain this connection, as well as detailing the progression of an experience through the DMT levels. Artists participating in the Replication Contest may find inspiration and insights into replicating specific visual patterns and structures often encountered in DMT experiences.
Why it’s helpful: The Psychophysics Toolkit and accompanying article are collections of resources and tools designed to help researchers and artists explore the intersection of perception, consciousness, and the physical world. It includes a variety of resources and interface tools that can aid artists in understanding the principles of psychophysics used to measure subjective experience and applying them to their work. This can be particularly useful for participants in all three contests, as it can provide insights into the ways that sensory information is processed during both ordinary and non-ordinary states of consciousness, and how this can be utilized in creating innovative and impactful art pieces.
Why it’s helpful: This video introduces new epistemological frameworks for studying and understanding non-ordinary states of consciousness induced by psychedelic substances. By incorporating these paradigms into their creative process, artists can develop a deeper understanding of the nature of these experiences and their potential implications for human knowledge. This enhanced understanding can help artists create innovative and thought-provoking pieces that capture the essence of exotic states of consciousness.
Why it’s helpful: This article provides a detailed explanation of the concept of phenomenal time and how it relates to the structure of conscious experiences. Understanding this concept could help artists in the contest to better represent the perception of time in non-ordinary states of consciousness and incorporate these insights into their artwork.
Why it’s helpful: This article explores the concept of wireheading and how it could be applied responsibly to maximize pleasure without causing psychological harm. Artists participating in the contest might find this article helpful in inspiring their work, particularly in the Inspirational Piece Contest, by envisioning a future where technology is used to enhance well-being and explore the state-space of consciousness responsibly.
Why it’s helpful: This video explores the concept of state-space neighborhoods, where specific aspects of conscious experiences are clustered together. By understanding the structure and dynamics of these neighborhoods, artists can create pieces that more accurately represent the nuances of different non-ordinary states of consciousness, leading to a more immersive and impactful experience for the audience.
Why it’s helpful: This article provides a comparative analysis of the experiences induced by 5-MeO-DMT and N,N-DMT. By understanding the unique characteristics of each substance’s effects, artists can draw inspiration for their artwork and more accurately replicate specific psychedelic experiences in the Replication Contest.
We would like to express our profound gratitude to the donors of the Qualia Research Institute. Your unwavering support has been invaluable in making our work possible. Your investment in our research has not only inspired a growing number of individuals to take our approach to consciousness research seriously but has also led to an expansion in our collaborations. As a result, we have seen the integration of our insights into the work of others, building upon the foundation we have established thus far.
First and foremost, we would like to extend our appreciation to Loka Vision for inspiring the contest. Their dedication to the Psychedelic/Visionary Art community, as demonstrated through their Psychedelic Replication Masterclass, has shown us the immense potential this community holds in furthering our understanding of consciousness.
Thank you Andrés Gómez Emilsson for offering technical insights that will enable artists to create life-like replications of the low-level subjective effects experienced on NSCs and incepting the idea of psychedelic cryptography as a viable field of research.
A thank you goes to Josie Kins of effectindex.com for their open-source approach to developing psychedelic art through generative AI, as well as their support of and feedback on the Replication contest and insights into the visionary/psychedelic art community.