Re: qualia

Brent Allsop (
Mon, 29 Nov 1999 20:59:36 -0700 (MST)

Glen Finney <> stated:

> I wonder what will happen when I can link the output of one person's
> V4 area to all the places my V4 sends connections to. Will I then
> get to experience someone else's sensation of red?

I bet it'll be a bit more than just something like this to "eff". But surely this will be possible some day. Mother Nature has brought many diverse kinds of qualia such as warmth, the smell of a rose, red, the taste of salt and so on into one single conscious world in a way that we clearly know what each is phenomenally like and we can clearly contrast how magically different they are. Just because we can't yet "eff" doesn't mean we don't know what they are like or that we will not be able to find a way to produce what we know we feel in others minds so that they can similarly compare and contrast the differences. As in: "Oh that's what salt tastes like to you. I use a different sensation to represent sodium chloride." It probably won't be as simple and as small as the chart of physical elements we now have and occasionally still add to as we discover new elements, but I predict that once we discover how our brain uses the physical elements to produces such phenomenal sensations to represent information with there will be a large effort to map all known sensations all brains use to phenomenally represent information and investigation of how all brains use the various different ones similarly or differently. "What is it like to be a bat?" could be better stated: "what qualia does a bat use to represent echo located information and how can I experience the same sensation or know that it is similar to one I already experience?"

> My brother is color deficient (true, it's a problem of sensory
> detection more than processing)

I wouldn't say this. Surely the way the conscious information is phenomenally represented is far more important than simple detection of various wavelengths of light. I bet if it was easy to produce more different color like qualia to represent more of the electromagnetic spectrum it would have been trivial for evolution to come up with simple rods and cones to detect such. It's easy for a camera to sense light within and without the visible spectrum. It's the phenomenal way our brain represents the information collected by the sensors that is so important and intelligent.

> but I would be fascinated to know what he perceives.

Yes! I sure look forward to introducing my Dog to what color qualia are like just as I look forward to experiencing whatever qualia she uses to represent some of what she so joyfully smells...

> And what about true variations in perception, like synesthesia.

Yes, and phantom limb pain... Pain isn't in the toe, it's in the phenomenally conscious model of your toe in your brain which isn't amputated. Surely similar sensations can be given to other brains given the proper cortex augmentations.

> I am forced to believe that qualia exists because I experience it.

It's more than this! We can't really know for sure that reality exists beyond our senses. Perhaps we are just a brain in a vat, or even less, after all! But one thing we do know for absolute certainty, that the qualia that is our conscious knowledge does exist. In the "I think therefor I am" these conscious thoughts are made of qualia. They only remotely represent and imply the existence of a world beyond our senses. We now know one absolutely must exist, until we discover and know what qualia are and can eff..., we can only indirectly infer that everything else that we only know abstractly exists.

> I suspect that someday we will be able to reproduce it, and then
> change it.

Are you sure? I'm betting that like the fundamental elements of nature, there are fundamental conscious qualities. Although it is easy to represent 700 nanometer light with a green qualia, green will always fundamentally be green and red will always be red. There may be new qualia that we discover and use to represent new information but I think red will always be red and never change. Though many things can abstractly represent red, I doubt there is anything else quite phenomenally like it.

> Once we are able to do those things, we will likely be on the road
> to understanding it.

Exactly! Like David Chalmers says this is the "hard problem" of consciousness. Everything else is easy, though still complex, information or computation theory. I think once we admit that qualia exist this will enable us to discover it and much of the rest will finally easily follow.

> As for whether AI's will have qualia if we don't specifically design
> for it (say, by mimicking the structure of our perceptual cortex),
> I couldn't say. It might emerge, or it might not.

This seems absurd to me. The color detecting machines in paint stores are already far more intelligent color wise than we are. An abstract 64 bit number can represent more color than we can perceive. Though the way I represent color is much less than a 64 bit abstract number it is still phenomenally much much more. Sure abstract numbers, given enough of them, can represent anything about red, but they will never be fundamentally and phenomenally "like" red.

> Believe it or not, I still think AI's can be intelligent,
> self-aware, and deserving of rights without having qualia per se.
> Qualia is a fascinating phenomenon, but not the yardstick by which I
> judge personhood.

Yes, just as a paint machine is far more intelligent than us about color today it's just a matter of time before pure abstract representations are as powerful as our phenomenal ones. But still, when you ask them what red is like, unless they really know, at best they can only lie about what it is really like.

> I'm still looking into the topic.

Your making it to complex. Just imagine commander data (or some future merely abstractly aware consciousness) finally saying: "Oh THAT'S what salt tastes like!" It's that simple if you ask me.

Brent Allsop

P.S. Won't it be great when we can experience (i.e. eff) more than just half of a sexual experience!? ;)