Transhumanist Dictionary [was Re: Is vs. Ought]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 26 Nov 1999 14:53:47 -0800 (PST)

On Thu, 25 Nov 1999, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> In my view, one of the strongest arguments for objective morality is the
> existence of qualia. ... If you can take complex,

> fundamentally subjective facets of cognition and turn them into
> objectively existent qualia, why can't you do the same thing with goals?

> It would appear to be a lot simpler, on the surface at least. In fact,
> given the qualia of pleasure, one could make a good case that it's

> happened already.

Ok, I give up. I've seen the term "qualia" off and on over a few months but only manage to get a vague impression of its meaning from context. I'm not entirely "illiterate" in this area. I've read Calvin and Crick and Minsky and some early Churchland and I've never seen it defined. The term isn't on Anders' 'Q' page and Amazon turns up only one title on Consciousness and Qualia, which I've added to my Book order list but given the backlog, I expect it will get to the top of the pile around 2007. It isn't in Webster's Dictionary of the English Language or two dictionaries I have on mathematical terms or a dictionary on molecular biology (which does however define quadrupole mass spectrometer, Quaking mutation, quantasome, quantiles and lots of other words that one clearly needs for Scrabble) or even "The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy"!

Altavista lists 4600+ references, including "Qualia Computing" which supplies "powerful computer-aided detection system designed to assist the radiologist in the screening of breast cancer", which I suspect isn't what is being discussed.

So, I've got two questions.

What in the blazes is a "qualia"?

And, how can we lower the barriers to entry for people coming into this list if we do not have a dictionary of terms for the newbies (or even the middle-aged-bies)?

While Anders list is wonderful, many people probably do not know about it and there isn't a systematic approach to expanding it or linking our conversations to it.

We take N months of EI/transhumanist list archives, throw out all of the common (dictionary?) terms, reduce the list to an extropian/transhumanist "specific" subset, then partition those out to people by area of expertise.

If we get 100 people who agree to do 5-10 terms each, then we have the basis for a background vocabulary that we can automatically link to from the archives.

Now the interesting thing about this is that, if one has been following the discussions about types of nodes on the net there are "destination" (termination) pages and central "expert" pages (the terms typically used vary), but if we presume that there will be a high targeting rate for the "expert" pages as search engines learn to discriminate these, then it makes sense for us to define with definitions and lots of outgoing links to related pages that support our perspective.

Any takers?