Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

Wei Dai (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 00:27:37 -0700

On Tue, Jun 15, 1999 at 06:01:46PM -0500, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> Of course not. If we can't comprehend the First Cause or qualia
> ourselves, because our reasoning processes deal only with
> Turing-computable ontologies, I would hardly expect us to be able to
> explain qualia to a skeptical Turing-computable being! Remember, qualia
> are enormously improbable; the only reason we're allowed to have them is
> because of the enormous number of races combined with the Anthropic
> Principle. To any skeptic, the probability that our race is
> congenitally brain-damaged would exceed the probability of our having
> actual qualia. You'd have to open up the neurons and demonstrate that
> we're messing with Weird Physics, after which the whole qualia business
> would be more plausible.

Can you go through your reasons for believing that qualia are enormously improbable? I understand it has something to do with the seeming impossibility of finding a definition for "instantiation" of a computation, but what is the connection exactly?

Also, do you think it is possible to program a Turing-computable being to behave as if it has qualia even though it doesn't really? If so how can we tell we are not such beings? I'm thinking "I have qualia" but that is what such a being would be thinking as well. Conversely, how do we know it's not the case that non-sentient animals also have qualia, but they just can't communicate that fact to us?

When you talk about non-Turing-computable "Weird Physics" are you thinking of physics that would be computable under a more powerful model of computation (for example TM with various oracles), or something entirely different?