Qualia trickery (was Re: How To Live In A Simulation)

From: Emlyn (emlyn@one.net.au)
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 01:13:16 MST

You sound very confident of your argument, given all the assumptions!

The *major* assumption is that qualia are something, rather than a figment
of our imagination. There is a major camp in the consciousness debate
(Dennett et al) who say that qualia are so difficult to describe and define
because they are not real. Personally, I still lean toward qualia existing
and meaning something, but I could be swayed the other way... the jury is
definitely out on this question.

Secondly, you assume that qualia are not physical. You assume that, given
some future time when we can simulate a being exactly, that the physical
description used to simulate the person does not contain any mechanism to
implement qualia. So qualia are somehow otherworldly, intangible things.

Thirdly, and importantly, you assume that qualia are not epiphenomena, which
would emerge implicitly from the operation of a brain simulation, given that
the brain simulation is identical in operation to the original brain. If
qualia were an emergent property, they should emerge from the sim just as
the original, excepting if there is something sacred in the meat (shades of
mvt and similar silliness).

So we are left to entertain the notion that qualia are otherworldly, not
emergent, and do not attach automatically to simulations. So somehow, the
meat brain attracts these otherwordly qualia, but the sim does not. Why?
This is definitely not obvious.

An important addendum... Qualia are either worldly or other worldy. That is,
some physical process implements them, or none does. Most arguments
regarding qualia say that they are otherworldy, because they are used to
define identity (I eff therefore I am), and identity does not follow rules
of information (cannot be copied; identity forks) thus qualia cannot be
copied, thus qualia cannot be material/informational. They are "other".

Let's entertain the otherworldly hypothesis; let us say for argument's sake
that they are indeed from the netherworld.

The big problem with this, is that we all agree that the brain (and other
bits of the body) implements some part of our intelligence. Most would agree
that it certainly implements awareness... all the levels of processing from
sensation to being aware of a thing; and also the physical analogous control
mechanism, from deciding to do something back down to doing it.

So in the scenario I am entertaining, there is a physical component, and an
"otherworldy" component, to conscious intelligence (to us, at least).
Further, the otherworldly component has a material, measurable effect on the
physical component... that's how *real* consciousnesses can talk about
effing red, while hypothesised zombies would say "Eff? What the F?". Somehow
the experience of qualia is communicated to the physical components, to be
communicated to others via sound, for instance.

But... if this is so, then there must be some interface with which the
otherworldly interacts with the worldly. At some point, for example, some
set of neurons must react to invisible input, where they behave differently
than the laws of physics say they should. This *must* happen for the two
mechanisms to interact. We can talk about "effing red", so either we are
mistaken about it, or something real is happening in our brain to make us be
able to talk about it.

What do we conclude when we find the world violating physics? When we have
exhausted our alternatives, we must include the new behaviour in our rules;
we must conclude that our old rules were wrong/incomplete.

The only important thing about qualia, in this scenario, is the measurable
effect on the physical. If we can measure that (non-linear modification of
neuronal behaviour due to no mechanism that we can explain), then we should
be able to model it, given enough information. It becomes another one of
those models, like the atom, that we know represents reality, at least
isomorphically, by it's consistent and predictable effects.

Thus, qualia creep into the realm of the physical. Suddenly, we can simulate
not only the physical parts of human intelligence, but also the so-called
non physical aspects, the ghostly qualia. You can ask the simulation what
salty is like, and it will answer (truthfully) in the same way as any human,
because it has a true simulation of qualia, just as true as the rest of it's

Thus, I think it is clear that qualia are simulatable; either they are
physical, and so measurable and simulatable, or they are intangible, but
have tangible effects, which are in themselves simulatable. If the second
case is true, the "qualia themselves" are slashed away by Occam; the effect
is all that is necessary.

Emlyn James O'Regan - Managing Director
Wizards of AU
"Australian IT Wizards - US Technology Leaders
Pure International Teleworking in the Global Economy"

Brent Allsop wrote:

> Hal <hal@finney.org>,
> > Let me briefly give an explicit argument for why simulated beings
> > deserve the same consideration as real ones. Basically I will claim
> > that there is no fundamental difference between a simulated and a
> > real being. I know this is a radical claim but see if the chain of
> > reasoning below is convincing.
> Amongst extropians this isn't that radical of a claim. It
> seems to be your basic extropian dogma which 99% of extropians seem to
> refuse to question regardless of the evidence against it.
> > Real human beings have all of their consciousness tied up in their
> > brain. The activity of the brain somehow produces the consciousness
> > that makes us want to care about them morally.
> Great so far.
> > We know the brain works by the activity of neural cells which
> > interact with each other via chemical and electrical messages.
> > Likewise they get information from and send signals to the outside
> > world via similar messages.
> Here is where you start to lose it. The important thing is, a
> message must have some kind of receiver or final resulting knowledge.
> There is more than messages in our brain. The messages from our
> sensors ultimately end up being our conscious knowledge. Conscious
> knowledge isn't a message, it is the result of a message.
> The signal our tongue produces when it comes in contact with
> sodium chloride results, in our brain, the conscious knowledge that is
> salty. In order for your argument to hold true some abstract binary
> number must be able to do the same thing as this salty qualia our
> brain uses.
> True, a sufficiently complex binary number can "causally"
> model anything a salty qualia can, but this is missing the most
> important part of consciousness. In order to know the true meaning of
> this binary number, you must map it back to salty. The binary number
> can be represented by a paper tape, ferrite on a disk, the state of
> some transistors on an IC, or buss line... It doesn't matter to a
> simulation. But to us it does matter.
> When people experience "synesthesia" incorrect conscious
> knowledge results from our senses. Sodium chloride could result in a
> red sensation, for example. Red could also abstractly represent
> sodium chloride just like a binary number could. But anyone that
> thinks it doesn't matter whether we represent sodium chloride with
> salty or red - wouldn't they be really off their rocker?
> You can ask a real conscious person what salt is like. Some
> day we will be able to eff and communicate these sensations. We're
> already starting to artificially produce qualia (points of light and
> sounds) via artificial stimulation in blind people, for example. When
> you ask a simulation what red is like what will it say? If it is
> being honest it will say it's salty is an abstract number and not like
> anything. When you want to eff with a simulation so that you can know
> what it's representation of salt is like, how could it be possible for
> it to have anything to eff?
> Once we have enough ability to perform this Moravekian trick
> and start to replace neurons with other material people will finally
> realize that even if the external behavior remains the same, the
> phenomenal conscious qualites will cease to exist. The people will
> finally discover (or finally realize what we've all known all along)
> that our consciousness knowledge is constructed of phenomenal qualia.
> Though what this conscious stuff is phenomenally like can be
> simulated, there is nothing really and fundamentally like it.
> Brent Allsop

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