Re: Sentience Quotient [was Re: qualia]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 11:46:24 -0800 (PST)

On Fri, 3 Dec 1999, Robin Hanson wrote:

> >> I wrote about defining a sentience quotient...
> I don't understand how this helps. Even if we could objectively
> determine an SQ for all objects, how does that tell us what it
> feels like to be a rock? And I have strong doubts that one can
> objectively assign a bits/sec number to objects like rocks.

Well, if we assume that the heat flow through a rock as it sits in the sun constitutes some very unconscious "feeling", I can imagine what that is like if I lie on the beach doing my best rock imitation (thinking about nothing). But I still have an awareness of what it is like to not be a rock, so I can probably never feel *exactly* like a rock.

I would propose that the SQ may serve as a partial basis for criteria that you might require to achieve qualia equivalence in diffferent entitites. I don't think the rock could get the qualia of the plant or the human (or vice versa) because of the large differences in SQs. I would be more willing to accept that a human, dolphin and elephant "might" be able to experience the qualia of each other because of their similar SQs.

I'm not sure that SQ equivalence is a sufficient criteria for qualia matching. I can imagine a desktop computer with a SQ someplace between that of a bumblebee and a mouse but I really doubt they have equivalent qualia. However, if you could get down to the nuts and bolts of how neural nets represent qualia I think you could get your desktop computer to hold those of the bumblebee and perhaps the mouse. And with some really complex neuron/biotech hacking, you might be able to get the bumblebee or mouse to experience being a souped up adding machine.

Though moving qualia between fundamentally different architectures seems to be kind of like asking "when is a simulation the real thing"? For that question I don't have an answer.

In specific answer to your question, knowledge about SQ does not tell you what it feels like to be a rock, it may only offer partial constraints on whether it is *possible* for one thing to "know" what it is like to feel like another thing.