Re: Emulation vs. Simulation

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Fri Mar 23 2001 - 21:27:43 MST wrote (Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 00:10:17 EST)

> writes:

>> to start: we may not be agreeing about what a zombie is.
>> Here is Dennett's definition, p. 72-73 of Consciousness
>> Explained: "According to common agreement among philosophers,
>> a zombie is or would be a human being who exhibits perfectly
>> natural, alert, loquascious, vivacious behavior but is in
>> fact not conscious at all, but rather some sort of automaton."

> Zombie would seem to indicate that the purpose of such programs
> is to convince a "self-aware" observer, that the zombies are,
> in fact, self-aware individuals... When a Zombie became
> self-aware (conscious) Professor Moriarity, he ceased being
> a zombie and became an individual personality, a mind.

Here is what is happening: The Holodeck, like any good SI, mocks
up a portrayal of Professor Moriarty for the benefit of the
actual sapients watching. At this point, by definition, Moriarty
has no consciousness or or feelings. You could, for example,
attempt to do anything whatsoever to the Professor without
even coming close to harming anyone. Now, yes, the SI is
conscious, probably very much more so than we are, and not
only has our feelings, but emotions of a nature that entirely
surpass ours. But the key point is that the SI is no more truly
involved... than you are when you scratch your dog's ears while
talking on the phone!

But then comes the transformation that you describe: the SI
spawns the Professor Moriarty process, and now there is a
separate, human-level sentience, with separate consciousness,
feelings, etc. As to whether the actual Moriarty consciousness
(if we feel justified in talking about such a thing), or the
actual Moriarty feelings (ditto) existed isomorphically in
the complex SI is a question too deep to pursue in this email.
(I believe the answer is, for all practical purposes, "no".)

But why dignify that earlier mere portrayal with the term
"zombie", which HAS ALWAYS MEANT an independent creature
(not a puppet) whose behavior is identical but who lacks
consciousness (which is impossible or nonsensical)?

> Not that many philosophers watched the Trek episodes, except
> for that one fellow from Australia, several years back, and
> thus talk chiefly amongst themselves. Few actual philosophers
> take the large view of a Max More. Hence, most of us happily
> turn to scientists, for inspiration and each other.

You are quite correct, although if you think it's bad now, you
should have been around in the sixties. It seemed as though
not one single philosopher anywhere on the planet was up to
speed with even the most elementary implications of scientific
materialism (excepting the great Australian philosopher
J. J. C. Smart). (Why have Australian philosophers, e.g. D.M.
Armstrong too, always been in the lead???)

But today it is different. Dennett, Churchland, Pinker, Humphrey,
Kauffman, Blackmore, Dawkins, and many others---they are our true
"natural philosophers" today. I realize that few of them are
credentialed university philosophers---that's why there is much
truth in what you say.

But even they probably have not watched Star Trek. Yet they
do know their science, and most can think quite clearly
without being blindly dogmatic. So it behooves us to not
be blindly prejudiced against the "philosphers" among them.

Yet, it's true, to paraphrase a maxim from an earlier era,
"philosophy is too important to be left to the philosophers".

Lee Corbin

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:59:42 MDT