[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

New Comment
23 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:25 AM

I've taken the survey and I can confirm that it's three pages long: it was not atrociously boring.

Done. Looking forward to seeing your results!

Took the survey, but I was very unsure of what a lot of the options meant. "Consciousness is different than the subject?" That doesn't make much sense to me as a sentence, much less a concept.

I also didn't know a lot of the divisions between the groups to identify with - there were 5 or 6 subcategories of 'transhumanist', and I didn't want to take 10 minutes to look up which ones I am. I would have left those blank or hit a 'I don't know what this is' button, but the survey didn't allow it.

"Consciousness is different than the subject?" This and many other ones are tricky. But I know people who harbor strong opinions about them. In the end, it does not matter vey much that people from all over the place disagree a lot about those questions... that only means they are not really measuring any important latent trait. On the other hand, there are quite a few questions that people disagree on predictably. In other words, they can be used to determine the memetic cluster to which you belong.

Thanks for the heads up. I know of a statistical method to reduce the bias provided by lazy users :)

Done. Your previous analysis was interesting. Looking forward to more.

Meta: I suggest you state a voting policy (upvoting any comment that states taking the test) to increase participation.

I agree with the others, some of those questions would take way too long to answer properly. They were pretty vague.

And the middle option should reflect some neutral position like 'I'm not sure' rather than 'it's irrelevant for consciousness', or whatever. That's what I used it for.

Also (though this is really my fault) some of those terms were unfamiliar, and I was feeling to lazy too look them all up, so you may get some anomalies in there. I expect some people might have done this with at least one question.

I couldn't fill the survey because most of the questions that ask if "Consciousness is X" are too underspecified to answer.

E.g., is consciousness "the same in everyone"? Some properties are the same, some are different. Is it "a helpful illusion"? Helpful for whom or for what? Maybe it's helpful some of the time and harmful some of the time. Is it "a philosophical trap"? Well, it's trapped many philosophers, but there are also true statements about consciousness that aren't philosophical traps. Does it "arise with complexity?" Do you mean does it necessarily arise with complexity, or does it arise only with complexity, and what is "complexity" anyway? Is it "the output of a computer"? Do you mean can it be the output of a computer, or must it be the output of a computer (i.e. can all possible conscious states be simulated)? Does my brain count as a computer?

I could go on for almost all the questions in this section: I just don't know what is meant. This is a subject that people famously get confused about, so I don't want to try to jump to some "naive" or "obvious" interpretation of each statement.

For a few of the questions I can't think of any good interpretations. "Is consciousness not a something"? What is this asking?

I always cut lots of slack to surveys and look for some reasonable interpretation, but I still had some similar issues. It would probably add information to the results if all items had an option for "I don't get it." That should be distinguished from "I feel neutral toward this."

Warning: the survey is very long, I gave up after a few pages.

Also, fix the links, half of them point to lesswrong.

The average time people take to complete the survey is 20 minutes, with most people taking 15 and a long tail of people taking up to several hours, presumably because they went on to do something else for a while and returned to complete it later.

Thanks for mentioning the problem with the links. Fixed.

Yeah, I did not expect 15-20 min, with no indication of the progress thus far. Maybe if it showed "page 10 of 25" or something...

I think there are 3 pages.

Apparently so. I guess I gave up on the last page. Sorry about that.


Enough people are continuing to answer the questionnaire that it makes sense to extend the deadline until midnight (California time) of the Sunday 2nd of August of 2015.

Thanks for helping! I am aiming to have the writeup with the results ready by August 8th.

I have a question:

In your post, "A Workable Solution to the Problem of Other Minds", you talk about solving the problem by connecting and disconnecting minds (i.e. doing mind-coalescing and decolescing). I also had this idea, but I didn't really develop it much. Do you know where I could read more about this proposed solution to the problem of other minds?

doing mind-coalescing and decolescing

That is not enough to solve the problem of other minds, as the article explains. The main problem is that when you incorcoporate a whole brain into your overall brain-mass by connecting to it, you can't be certain whether the other being was conscious to begin with or whether the effect is a simple result of your massively amplified brain.

That's why you need a scheme that allows the other being to solve a puzzle while you are disconnected. The puzzle needs to be such that only a conscious intelligence could solve it. And to actually verify that the entity solved it on its own you need to connect again to it and verify while merged that the solution is found there.

Of course you need to make sure that you distract yourself while you are temporarily disconnected, otherwise you may suspect you accidentally solved the phenomenal puzzle on your own.

The solution has a minimum of complexity, and to my knowledge no one else had proposed it before. Derek Parfit, Daniel Kolak, Borges and David Pearce get into some amazing territories that could well lead to a solution of this sort. But they always stay one step short of getting something where the creation of information is a demonstration of another entity actually being conscious.

Done. Very interesting.

It is quite long but I expected thus. Maybe you should split it into separate tests (though I guess that you are interested in and expect correlations between the parts).

I found the questions very carefully worded. I especially liked the last question set with the std deviation scale. When during checking I noticed that I didn't have many marks in the zero column I judged that I probably fell prey to some bias, reconsidered all entries and moved some toward the mean. I only left only those entries in the +-2 columns where I knew from other tests that I fell into that range.

I'M also very interested in the results. When do you expect to publish the results?

Thanks for your feedback. I am aiming to have the writeup done by August 8th. You will be able to find it in Qualia Computing.

I find rating the statements about consciousness hard because the scale doesn't distinguish Agree/Disagree from "I think I know the answer"/"I don't know"

Good feedback! In the future I will always add that option. The statistical analysis is trickier, but it can be done :)

Wow, that was a long survey. Done! I'm not sure how good my answers were, like others mentioned a lot of the questions felt underspecified.

Also done. The results may be interesting.