PHIL/AI : Humongous Lookup Table

John K Clark (
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 10:31:09 -0800 (PST)


On Wed, 12 Feb 1997 Hal Finney <> Wrote:

>An idea which is very common in science fiction is being able
>to directly experience another person's consciousness. This may
>be done through telepathy, through mechanically assisted mind
>reading, through some kind of upload/download process; a hundred
>different methods have probably been described.

>Do you think it would ever be possible to do this, or does this
>seem like something which is fundamentally impossible? If it
>could be done, then this could provide some insight into the
>nature of other beings' consciousness.

I don't see how the subjective could ever be made objective. Suppose a mind
reading machine told me that when you see the color red you have same
subjective experience that I do, red looks the same to you as it does for me.
How could I ever know if the machine was giving me correct information?
The operating principles of the machine would have to be based on some theory
of consciousness, but I'd have no way of knowing if that theory was correct.

There is an even more fundamental problem. My brain is different than yours,
so If I want to know what it's like to be you I'd need something that could
translate the states of your brain into states that my brain could understand.
If I did that then I'd know what it's like for John Clark to be Hal Finney.
Unfortunately that's not what I want, and the only way for me to know what
it's like for Hal Finney to be Hal Finney is to turn my brain into an exact
copy of yours. Even then "I" wouldn't know what it's like to be you, because
"I" wouldn't be John Clark anymore, I'd be Hal Finney.

John K Clark

Version: 2.6.i