Re: advantages of uploading (was Re: re [2]: What is "New Age"? )

Brent Allsop (
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 11:37:57 -0600

John K Clark <> continued:

> You're being much too serious, Dennett was just having some fun and
> engaging in a little wordplay, like saying "you don't think, you
> just think you think".

It seemed much more like a critical piece of his argument in
his book Consciousness Explained to me.

> The "moon theory" explains lots of things, things, like RADAR
> reflected off its surface, the tides, the chemical analysis of
> rocks, and photons entering our eye. The only thing the "conscious
> minds other than me" theory explains is behavior, if as you say it
> can't even do that then it's useless and logically I'd have to take
> solipsism very seriously.

There are lots of things having phenomenal representations
explains also. And this, with our current lack of understanding and
lack of ability to objectively manipulate and observe it. When we can
finally get our intelligence around observing much larger sub sets of
neurons in our brain there will be lots more physical things it will
explain. When we can predict that YOU will feel what you feel when a
certain set of brain, in a certain state, performs a particular way
and so on it will explain all this also.

> If you keep asking a sequence of "why" questions, before very many
> steps you will come to a ontological primitive that no theory can
> answer, such as, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Precisely! But there is something. Without something to
represent information there is no information.

> or "Why does intelligence produce consciousness?". The only answer
> is that's just the way the Universe is.

No, intelligence doesn't really produce consciousness. Our
brain uses conscious stuff to represent information with. If such
phenomenal physical stuff or phenomenon didn't exist or wasn't
possible in our universe, our brain might have used something else to
represent the information required to produce intelligence. I'm sure
some animals and insects aren't conscious like we are. Nature uses
some qualia for some intelligences and likely different qualia for
different intelligences. And maybe just abstract representations in
very low, computer like, bug creatures.

> I said INTELLIGENT zombies. I have to see an intelligent computer,
> color sensing or not, when I do I will conclude it's conscious.

There are machines now that can pass, at least limited,
Turring tests. Soon they will be completely unlimited and
indistinguishable. What would you think of these computers when they
try to answer the question: "What is blue like?" A computer may have
a pre prepaired script of abstract text to answer such a question but
this is completely different to what we do when we try to answer such
questions. Imagine how you would act if you were trying to convince
someone you used a red and blue qualia to represent 700 and 500 nm
light inversely from me. You could try it but you might be lying. A
machine trying to convince you it knew what blue was like would be
absolutely lying.

> My present consciousness was also influenced by the experiences I
> had in my life up to now, and every bit of it came to me through my
> senses and they can be represented digitally also.

No. When you see light reflecting off of a red surface, this
information about the wavelength of light is abstractly represented by
firing neurons. These firing neurons, in turn, produce a red
sensation in your brain. This red abstractly represents the way
particular wavelengths of light reflect off of the particular surface.
Though the two things are abstractly like each other or model each
other they are fundamentally not like each other at all. We know that
neural firing is not physically anything like light reflecting off of
a surface. We simply abstractly know that if we feel a red sensation
then 700 nm light is being reflected. Knowing this doesn't imply that
the two phenomenon are anything like each other. The actual nature of
the red quale, or what it is like, did not come to you through your
senses. Your brain simply used these phenomenal qualities to
represent the abstract information it was getting about the world.

> Science can find no difference between one atom and another,

Yes, and it is my bet that science will not be able to
distinguish between me experiencing a red quali and you experience a
red quale. Although you may use one quale to represent 700 nm light
and I may use that particular one to represent 500 nm light. We may
call these different representations red but they are not subjectively
the same.

> The important thing is the way the matter is organized and the name
> for that is information.

But there is more than just this! Though 700 nm light and a
red quale can represent the same information what they are
fundamentally and phenomenally like is also important. You can tell
the difference between light and firing neurons.

> If we have ever "looked" we must have used senses to do so.

I know that the sensation I get from looking at a fire red
mustang is very different from what I experience when I try to
remember that red. With my eyes closed I can't normally experience
this red sensation, unless I am dreaming. I know the difference
between these two representations and I did not find out this
difference information from my senses.

> If I did know what it's like to be you then I'd be you.

Some day you will be able to configure a part of your brain to
reproduce the same conscious phenomenon that is going on in my brain
because of our scientific physical understanding of the processes that
we will discover. You will then know precisely what it is like for me
to experience something. As I said earlier, you may discover that I
represent salt with an entirely different quale than what you
represent the taste of salt with.

> There is no point dancing around it, what we're talking about is the
> soul.

Yes. The soul is particular set of physical stuff that
produces a particular set of conscious phenomenon to represent itself.
The information describing which particular stuff and the organization
of this stuff is us. But, just as important is the fundamental and
phenomenal natures of this stuff is the answer to the question: what
is this stuff like? You can abstractly represent a red sensation with
700 nm light but this light tells you nothing about what red is really
like. You can abstractly represent any part of information about what
this stuff is like with different stuff, but it will be just that:
different fundamental physical stuff or phenomenon. What is
representing abstract information and what it is like is important also.

> 4) The soul is immortal and so, potentially, is information.

Yes, if you take the proper fundamental physical stuff and
phenomenon and put it in the same operating state, it will eternally
be you or indistinguishable from you. But, if you use different stuff
to represent or model the same information or process, though it may
abstractly model you, it will be fundamentally different and
distinguishable from you. The information is important but the nature
of the particular stuff and what it is like is also important for

> 1) The soul can't be duplicated but information can be.

I would completely disagree with this. What is there about
the soul that can't be duplicated given the proper ability to
manipulate physical stuff into the proper operating state?

> 2) The soul is and will always remain unfathomable,

What a depressing thought. Why would you think this? I see
no evidence that points to this. Once we understand and predict the
physics of conscious phenomenon we will fathom it all. Once we do
this the world will become a very different place in which uploading
and immortality will not be the only differences.

> but even if the soul exists it will never be proven.

Why would you say this? If there is anything there of any
importance, that has any influence at all in this universe, both
consciously and physically, and in our lives, we will eventually
completely understand it just like we know and understand traditional
physics. Why insist something like this so faithlessly and what
evidence is there to support this assertion of eternal ignorance?

> What evidence do you have that two entities can behave exactly the
> same way yet have different consciousness?

You can put on colored glasses which will invert the qualia
you use to represent particular wavelengths of light. (Or you might
invert the color wiring between your retina and the primary visual
cortex) What you once called blue might become red and what was once
red might become blue. You will act the same, but you subjective
experience or the way you represent the visual world will be very
different. And of course your answer two the question: what is red
and blue like would become inverted.

> I can't prove it but the evidence is very good that what you say is
> true.

No, you simply haven't yet discovered a way to demonstrate
that a red sensation is not an unobservable characteristic. A big

> The conclusion is clear, intelligence is impossible without
> consciousness.

No. Machines are intelligent. They know things. But this
knowledge is only represented abstractly and not with the phenomenal
stuff of consciousness which we use to represent what we know. The
two are very different and this difference is what is all important
with consciousness. A machine can represent joy/desire and behave as
if it is experiencing joy/desire, but it can't, YET, really know what
joy/desire is like.

Brent Allsop