The Most Interesting People I Know

16 - Andrés Gómez Emilsson on Solving Consciousness and Being Happy All the Time

October 25, 2019

Andrés Gómez Emilsson is the Director of Research at the Qualia Research Institute (QRI). QRI aims to systematize the study of consciousness, to do to consciousness what chemistry did for alchemy. He holds a master’s degree in computational psychology and an undergraduate degree in symbolic systems from Stanford University, where he co-founded the Stanford Transhumanist Association. 

This is a pretty wild episode touching on some of the most important and mind-bending ideas I’ve ever encountered, centered around a single question: why can't we be happy all the time?

We get into some pretty wacky territory but I think Andrés does a good job of making this approachable to somebody who has never encountered these ideas before. 

We use the term intuition pump a few times, this is a word coined by the philosopher Daniel Dennett to describe a thought experiment that helps the thinker use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem. 

We cover:

Andrés’s life project to overcome all the mechanisms that prevent us from being happy all the time, the hedonic treadmill, the promise of anti-tolerance drugs, the influence of genetics on our ability to be happy, how electric stimulation of the brain doesn’t lead to tolerance the way drugs do, wireheading done right and wrong, three types of euphoria, the social gulf between Bay Area life-optimizers and everyone else, negative utilitarianism, the worst and best experiences humans have, the therapeutic and scientific potential for 5-meo-dmt, psychedelics as Effective Altruism’s cause X, the best way to use ibogaine for treating opiate addiction, a better approach to using opiates for pain management, and why people report wacky new beliefs after ego dissolving psychedelic experiences

Links:

Simon and Garfunkel song: Richard Cory

Andrés’s article: Wireheading Done Right: Stay Positive Without Going Insane

Book excerpt describing electrodes placed in the brains of mental patients in the 1950s: The Orgasmic Brain

84% of drug users who report a bad trip say they benefited from the experience

NYMag: Psychedelic Mushrooms Cured My Cluster Headaches

NY Public Radio interview on how Harry Anslinger started the war on drugs

The Qualia Research Institute (QRI)

QRI executive director Mike Johnson’s blog: Opentheory.net