PLATINUM2023

Western Institute for Advanced Study

A meeting of minds and effort

Mission

The Western Institute for Advanced Study is devoted to addressing historically-intractable problems in mathematics, physics, and the biological sciences. Our mission is to foster highly interdisciplinary efforts to promote scientific progress, for the greater benefit of humanity.

Ruling year info

2019

Scientific Director

Izi Stoll

Main address

1312 Seventeenth Street Suite 745

Denver, CO 80202 USA

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EIN

83-4061510

NTEE code info

Human Service Organizations (P20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

There are a number of historically intractable problems in the fields of mathematics, physics, and biology. Despite enormous leaps forward over the past hundred years, many outstanding questions remain unsolved. Our mission is to foster highly interdisciplinary efforts to promote scientific progress, for the greater benefit of humanity.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

2018-2022 Grand Challenge: The physical basis of consciousness

A mechanistic explanation of consciousness has long been elusive to scientists and philosophers. It is simply not understood what perceptual experience is, how cognitive constructs grow over time, and how we might be able to achieve volitional behavior. The goal of this Grand Challenge was to devise a theoretical framework for understanding consciousness in accordance with physical laws, as a natural emergent property of neural computation. This effort successfully generated a theory that explains these three phenomena, by combining the laws of neuroscience and computational physics. This work is currently undergoing peer review.

Population(s) Served
Researchers
Students

The complexity of computational problems can be classified by the time resources required to identify a solution. Computational problems which can be solved in polynomial time by a deterministic Turing machine are classed as P. By contrast, NP problems can be verified in polynomial time but cannot be solved in polynomial time with deterministic computing methods. NP-hard problems include certain decision problems, search problems, and optimization problems. NP-complete problems are problems which are both NP and NP-hard. The outstanding question is whether problems in this computational complexity class can be practically solved with non-deterministic computing methods. This effort aims to devise operational laws and algebras which guide non-deterministic computing at ambient temperatures.

Population(s) Served
Students
Researchers

Entropy is both the amount of energy unavailable to do work in a thermodynamic system and a mathematical description of the possible arrangements of particles in that system. An astonishingly similar equation measures information, the amount of disorder or non-compressibility in a dataset. At the microscopic level, information is the distribution of component pure states in quantum systems. Yet a functional link between these laws has remained out of reach, despite the common element of probabilistic mechanics which provides the foundation for thermodynamics, predictive computation, and quantum theory. This Grand Challenge addresses the following questions: How are information and entropy related? Do they play any significant role in the structure and operation of our universe? What are the implications of living in a probabilistic world, which generates information and entropy?

Population(s) Served
Researchers
Students

A long-standing challenge in physics is reconciling quantum mechanics and general relativity. At quantum scales, a fundamental uncertainty in the position and momentum of a particle renders difficulty in measuring the curvature of space-time at its exact location. Meanwhile, at cosmological scales, the curvature of space-time appears irregular and dynamic. The goal of this Grand Challenge is to devise a theoretical framework that describes the curvature of the universe using mechanical laws, rather than empirically-derived constants which are not valid at every scale - with a metric tensor that emerges directly from an extended model of particle physics.

Population(s) Served
Researchers
Students

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of unique website visitors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Researchers, Students

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of donors lending

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

2018-2022 Grand Challenge: The physical basis of consciousness

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of reports written/published

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

2018-2022 Grand Challenge: The physical basis of consciousness

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Find pre-prints posted for the scientific community on bioRxiv and here: https://www.westerninstituteforadvancedstudy.org/archives

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our goal is to advance scientific progress. We provide the time and space for researchers to identify novel solutions to long-standing problems, with an open and interdisciplinary atmosphere to explore the uncharted territory between established fields. Overall, we aim to create a home for academic scholarship, for the greater benefit of society.

We issue Grand Challenges in the field of mathematics, physics, or the biological sciences. We then devise a dedicated team of fellows who are highly motivated and well-equipped to pursue each research question. Fellows are given support to pursue solutions to the annual Grand Challenge, using their own methodology and working in collaboration with other researchers who have complementary expertise. Research findings undergo a full peer-review process and are made freely available to the public through open-access publication.

We are a relatively new 501(c)3 organization, founded in 2019, but we have hit the ground running. In 2022, we began fundraising and raised $50,130. We established a payroll platform, an accounting platform, a project management platform, and a no-overhead donation platform. We also doubled our web traffic and started building partnerships with external scientists and philosophers to expand our research program. Our Scientific Director is leading efforts to publish the results of our first Grand Challenge and identify researchers who will tackle the next Grand Challenges. We are currently expanding our Board of Directors, to bring additional expertise in fundraising, asset management and public communications into our leadership structure.

We have successfully tackled our first Grand Challenge! Building on this momentum, we will continue to issue Grand Challenges and recruit experts in those fields to tackle these long-standing scientific problems through our Fellowship Award program.

2018-2022 Grand Challenge: The physical basis of consciousness
Background: A mechanistic explanation of consciousness has long proved elusive to philosophers and scientists. To date, the field of neuroscience has been unable to describe why cortical neural networks - but not spinal reflex circuits - are associated with perceivable information content, predictive cognitive models of the world which grow over time, and the initiation of contextually-appropriate behavior. The goal of this Grand Challenge is to devise a theoretical framework for understanding these features of consciousness as emergent properties of neural computation.
Results: A new approach to modeling probabilistic signaling outcomes in cortical neurons - as a process of thermodynamic computation - naturally yields representative information content, the spontaneous emergence of a more ordered system state over time, and contextually-appropriate behaviors resulting from a system-wide non-deterministic (but fully mechanistic) decision process.
Impact: This approach requires only two (empirically-valid) assumptions, provides superior explanatory power than previous efforts to model the emergent properties of cortical neural networks, and offers a dozen testable hypotheses for laboratory researchers. This new theoretical framework is expected to have a useful impact on the field of neuroscience and the field of computational intelligence.

The results from our first Grand Challenge have been presented at three scientific conferences. Academic papers are currently under peer review, and pre-prints have been posted for the scientific community here:
https://bit.ly/3Znb2ky
A posted lecture, with a technical summary of the theoretical framework, can be found here:
https://youtu.be/YcXYEeOCHa4
A posted lecture, with a non-technical summary of the theoretical framework, can be found here:
https://youtu.be/hAazbzh21jc
An interview with the lead researcher can be found here:
https://youtu.be/AAibdhCoeqk

Ongoing Grand Challenges (2023 -):
Tackling computational complexity
Living in an information-filled world
The emergent structure of the universe

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    to ensure scientific accuracy

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback

Financials

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Western Institute for Advanced Study

Board of directors
as of 03/31/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Dr Izi Stoll

Izi Stoll

Nathan Cassell

Phylecia Jones

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/21/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

Transgender Identity

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data