Hi Question Mark. While Nuño evaluated many longtermist orgs in that post, he didn’t actually evaluate QRI. Here’s the full quote: “Below is a list of perhaps notable organizations which I could have evaluated but didn’t. […] Qualia Research Institute. Its pathway to impact appears implausible and overly ambitious.” It’s unfortunate that no explanation is actually given for why the view is held. The name of any longtermist org could have replaced QRI’s name and the statement would sound exactly the same.
QRI’s path to impact has three steps. Step 1: understand what things are conscious and how to measure and quantify valence (how good or bad an experience feels). Fortunately, we’re in a great position to make progress. Michael Johnson’s Principia Qualia breaks down the problem of consciousness into eight clear sub-problems and lays out a testable theory for what valence is. You can read about the progress made since the theory was presented here.
After we can measure valence, step 2 is to do just that in humans, animals, and anything we suspect is conscious. We’ll do it in a variety of situations and conditions. We’d confirm whether valence follows a log scale, as Andrés Gomez Emilsson has suggested. All this data will make it easier to make economic decisions, allocate capital, and do effective altruism. It’ll also let us learn what the situation is with the quintillions of organisms on the planet and come up with a triage plan to help. For more on this topic, see Johnson’s “Effective Altruism, and building a better QALY.”
Step 3: reduce suffering, increase baseline well-being, reach new heights of happiness. Solving valence measurement will probably yield insight into how to take a suffering mind and nudge it toward something better. We also take inspiration from the quote: ‘Thermodynamics owes more to the steam engine than the steam engine to thermodynamics.’ So we’ll be working on how to measure valence (step 1) and how to reliably create positive valence (step 3) at the same time. If AGI is involved in creating an awesome future, chances are it’s because we aligned its values to care about valence too. Johnson wrote about this in more detail here. That’s the path to impact. If it seems implausible, I’m curious what step doesn’t make sense. As for it being overly ambitious, well, that’s only a problem if the project isn’t able to be accomplished. It definitely will be hard to accomplish without money, but we’re working on it anyway.