Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

Harvey Newstrom (
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 16:39:54 -0400

Hal <> wrote:
> The point is to show that there is no difference between a causally
> connected brain and a passively replaying one, or at least that the
> difference is so trivial that it is almost inconceivable that it could be
> the cause of consciousness. I know that you disagree with this stated in
> such bald terms, but realize that it is a conclusion, not an assumption.

I really must object to this. Your two brain systems have massive differences that are (to me) obviously directly involved with consciousness.

The first brain can talk whenever it wants to. The second can only talk when programmed by an external force to do so. The first brain is not predictable, we don't no what it will do. The second brain is predictable, it only does what we tell it to do. The first brain functions autonomously, and will continue to do so after everybody leaves. The second brain only functions while being controlled by external brains. If everybody leaves, it becomes inert. The first brain can think up new ideas. The second brain can only think up what someone else already thought up and copies into the brain. The first brain can respond to new situations. The second brain will only respond to situations that have already occurred and have been recorded.

I don't see how these brains can even be considered to be behaving similarly. One seems to meet every definition of consciousness, while the other seems to miss every definition of consciousness. Any appearance of similarity between the brains is superficial.

To be honest, I don't see how you can really believe that the second brain is as conscious as the first, except for the sake of argument. You can't have a conversation with the second brain. It can't perform any function without someone else doing it for it first. It couldn't be submitted to pass a real Turing Test. It can't answer the phone and talk. It can never tell you something you didn't already know. Can you really tell me that if I were going to upload you, that you would have no preference as to whether you were the first brain or the second brain? I think the real-world answer is obvious, and you are deliberately ignoring the obvious to try to make your argument work out.

Harvey Newstrom <mailto://> <>
Author, Consultant, Engineer, Legal Hacker, Researcher, Scientist.