Why qualia might matter (was Re: Economic (ignorance) Nativism and me)

From: Emlyn (emlyn@one.net.au)
Date: Mon Mar 26 2001 - 15:23:28 MST

Robert wrote, amongst other things...
> [NOTE: And here I will make a prediction -- "When" we understand
> completely what 'consciousness' is; we will say 'Is that all it is?'
> and it will cease to hold the "high" position that it now does
> in terms of discussions like 'rights', 'simulations', 'zombies',
> etc. We will view 'consciousness' as just something else the brain
> can do -- just as the visual neural system has the ability to
> assemble lines, merge them into complete 'shapes', map them onto
> recognizable objects, etc.]
> -- then IMO you need to look carefully at what William Calvin has
> been saying about the need to simulate yourself as the actor in
> the internal view of the 'scene'. That combined with a better
> understanding of how one 'talks to oneself' will yield the necessary
> understanding.
> Robert

There is a point I need to raise here regarding the motivation of the
"zombie" debate.

I don't think that anyone in that main "qualia" camp is saying that you
*cannot* create intelligence without understanding & recreating the
inneffable thing that is consciousness. Well, maybe some are, and they
should get their grant money now, it wont be there in 10 years...

That's not the point. Most qualia supporters would say "sure, of course you
can create intelligence". And, they would support you in doing so. No
problems. If the created creatures are lacking qualia, they'll never know
what they are missing; it wont matter to them at all, or to us.

However, this debate is important in terms of uploading. When we say that we
want to take an existing, human intelligence, and move it to another
substrate (inside a machine), there is an egoistical imperitive. We don't
want to die!

Suddenly, something matters which doesn't matter in any other part of the
debates of intelligence - the subjective, internal world of the subject. The
subject wants to retain his/her essential identity, self, *consciousness*.
This is entirely the point of the procedure, the deciding factor between
determining that one has died, or one has lived on.

So, whatever qualia are (supposing for a moment that, indeed, they are),
they are vitally important to a person's inner world... it's their raw
interface between their essential self, and the world at large.

Does that sound weird and fluffy? It is. And yet, it is vitally important.

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:59:43 MDT