I’m proud to announce the immediate availability of Principia Qualia (download link).
I started this project over six years ago, when trying to understand the problem of valence, or what makes some things feel better than others. Over time, I realized that I couldn’t solve valence without at least addressing consciousness, and the project grew into a “full-stack” approach to understanding qualia.
The way we speak about consciousness is akin to how we spoke about alchemy in the middle ages.
Over time, and with great effort, we turned alchemy into chemistry.
Principia Qualia attempts to start a similar process for consciousness- to offer a foundation for a new Science of Qualia.
The first core takeaway is that ‘the problem of consciousness’ is actually made up of several smaller problems:
A solution to all of these subproblems would be both necessary and sufficient to completely solve the problem of consciousness.
The second core takeaway is that if we assume that consciousness is quantifiable (“for any conscious experience, there exists a mathematical object isomorphic to it”), then we can think of valence as some mathematical property or pattern within consciousness. The answer to what makes some experiences feel better than others will be found in math, not magic.
The third core takeaway is that, based on this framework, we can offer a specific hypothesis for exactly what valence is. Here’s a picture to frame this debate:
… now, either my hypothesis (found in Section X) is correct, or it’s incorrect. But it’s testable.
This is just a taste- I cover a lot of ground in Principia Qualia, and I won’t be able to adequately summarize it here. If you want to understand consciousness better, go read it!
I’ll be holding office hours in Berkeley next week for discussion & clarification of these topics– feel free to message me if you’d like to schedule something.