Re: sentience (was: Re: ECON The Abolition Of Work)

ChuckKuecker (
Tue, 5 May 1998 22:23:15 -0500 (CDT)

At 11:34 5/5/98 -0700, you wrote:
>Wouldn't the functionalist perspective suggest that consciousness is not
>an "incidental" by-product, but rather an "inevitable" one? In other
>words, you automatically get consciousness when you have the kind of
>complex system Damien is describing. Any system which has a sufficiently
>rich representation of itself and the world is conscious - that is what
>consciousness is.

I think the determination is where the organism has an internalized sense of
being - it 'knows' it is an individual, separate from the world outside.
This is easily felt when one works with animals - but it is terribly hard to
define a test to prove this. I 'know' I am conscious - but how can I prove I
am not a cunningly written 'Eliza' program?

>One problem with this suggestion is that it implies that a relatively
>simple computer program, say CYC with its thousands of interrelated
>facts about the world, would be conscious to some degree. Such a
>program is far from being able to pass the Turing test, and we might
>not be comfortable setting the bar for consciousness so much lower than
>that for human equivalent intelligence. But on the other hand, it
>appears in nature that conscious awareness is in fact much easier to
>produce than human intelligence, so perhaps this is not so objectionable
>after all.

There is the key - awareness. A computer program filled with facts may not
actually be aware of the length of the Nile, but it can tell you that fact
on query.

Chuck Kuecker