State-Space of Background Assumptions

by algekalipso 4y29th Jul 201523 comments


[Update]: I received 720+ responses to the survey. Thanks everyone who helped! I have also concluded the statistical analysis (factor analysis, mediation analysis, clustering and prediction). I have not, however, done the writeup. This may take some time since I just started working. It will be done :) I just wanted to let people know this is the current stage. 


Hello everyone!

My name is Andrés Gómez Emilsson, and I'm the former president of the Stanford Transhumanist Association. I just graduated from Stanford with a masters in computational psychology (my undergraduate degree was in Symbolic Systems, the major with the highest LessWronger density at Stanford and possibly of all universities).

I have a request for the LessWrong community: I would like as many of you as possible to fill out this questionnaire I created to help us understand what causes the diversity of values in transhumanism. The purpose of this questionnaire is twofold:


  1. Characterize the state-space of background assumptions about consciousness
  2. Evaluate the influence of beliefs about consciousness, as well as personality and activities, in the acquisition of memetic affiliations


The first part is not specific to transhumanism, and it will be useful whether or not the second is fruitful. What do I mean by the state-space of background assumptions? The best way to get a sense of what this would look like is to see the results of a previous study I conducted: State-space of drug effects. There I asked participants to "rate the effects of a drug they have taken" by selecting the degree to which certain phrases describe the effects of the drug. I then conducted factor analysis on the dataset and extracted 6 meaningful factors accounting for more than 50% of the variance. Finally, I mapped the centroid of the responses of each drug in the state-space defined, so that people could visually compare the relative position of all of the substances in a normalized 6-dimensional space. 

I don't know what the state-space of background assumptions about consciousness looks like, but hopefully the analysis of the responses to this survey will reveal them.

The second part is specific to transhumanism, and I think it should concerns us all. To the extent that we are participating in the historical debate about how the future of humanity should be, it is important for us to know what makes people prefer certain views over others. To give you a fictitious example of a possible effect I might discover: It may turn out that being very extraverted predisposes you to be uninterested in Artificial Intelligence and its implications. If this is the case, we could pin-point possible sources of bias in certain communities and ideological movements, thereby increasing the chances of making more rational decisions.

The survey is scheduled to be closed in 2 days, on July 30th 2015. That said, I am willing to extend the deadline until August 2nd if I see that the number of LessWrongers answering the questionnaire is not slowing down by the 30th. [July 31st edit: I extend the deadline until midnight (California time) of August 2nd of 2015.]

Thank you all!

Andrés :)


Here are some links about my work in case you are interested and want to know more:

Survey link

Qualia Computing

Psychophysics for Psychedelic Research 

Psychedelic Perception of Visual Textures

The Psychedelic Future of Consciousness

A Workable Solution to the Problem of Other Minds