John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 22:48:05 -0700 (PDT)


On Tue, 17 Jun 1997 Brent Allsop <allsop@swttools.fc.hp.com> Wrote:

>intelligence doesn't really produce consciousness.

You're free to believe me or not, but I know for a fact that I'm conscious,
I also know that Evolution produced me, and I know that Evolution is only
interested in results, in behavior, so it's easy to see why it came up with
intelligence, but there is a mystery here. Why am I conscious?

>I'm sure some animals and insects aren't conscious like we are.

I still don't understand why you say "conscious like we are" instead of
"conscious like I am". Anyway, you think insects aren't very conscious,
I agree because they don't act very intelligent, but if you're correct and
behavior tells you nothing about consciousness then there is no reason they
couldn't be conscious, rocks too for that matter, or a cadaver.

>There are machines now that can pass, at least limited, Turring

Limited Turing Tests are a mockery, they insult Turing's original idea.

>Soon they will be completely unlimited and in distinguishable.

If so then soon they will be completely conscious.

>What would you think of these computers when they try to answer the
>question: "What is blue like?"

They probably couldn't give a very good answer to that question, but then,
I can't either.

>>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!? What do you mean "No"? The image you're looking at this instant is a
digital one created by your computer, when you listen to a CD it is a digital
sound. Does your entire argument hinge on the impossibility of doing the
same thing with smell, taste and touch?

>We know that neural firing is not physically anything like light
>reflecting off of a surface.

True, and we know that the digital electrical signal produced by a CCD
television camera is not physically anything like light reflecting off of a
surface, and we know that neural firing is not physically anything like the
quale of seeing a color. In other words, the physical nature of the objects
processing the information, neurons or transistors, has no effect on the
subjective experience.

>We simply abstractly know that if we feel a red sensation then 700nm
>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.

That is certainly true, we have no idea what the ultimate reality is, but I
don't see how that helps your argument that only meat can be conscious.

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

>But there is more than just this!

What is the difference between you and me? You agree that one atom is
identical to another so that can't be it, if it's not the way those atoms are
organized either then the holly rollers must be right and we have a
traditional religious soul. If I thought that I'd throw away my science books
and buy a saffron robe.

>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.

Of course you used your senses, otherwise you wouldn't know what red "looked"
like in the first place and so discover that your color memory is faulty.

>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.

Then "I" will know precisely what it is like for part of my brain to be
configured like part of your brain. "I" would still not know what it's like
to be you unless the part grew until it included the entire brain, and even
then "I" wouldn't know because "I" would no longer exist.

>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.

At one time programs were run on computers made with vacuum tubes, modern
machines use different stuff, would the results be fundamentally different
and distinguishable if those old programs were run on a semiconductor machine?

>The information is important but the nature of the particular stuff
>and what it is like is also important for consciousness.

Even if true, which I very much doubt, the nature of the particular stuff can
be expressed, in fact can only be expressed, as information.

>> Me:
>> 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?

My idea of the soul, information, can certainly be duplicated, I was
referring to the traditional religious soul in the above.

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

>What a depressing thought.

Agreed, it's one of the two main reasons religion is so depressing, the other
being a loving God who will torture you not for a billion years, but for
eternity for the slightest infraction of his many rules.

>Why would you think this? I see no evidence that points to this.

You can't ask for logic or evidence here, this is religion, it's not supposed
to make any sense.

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

>Why would you say this?

Because according to the religious even trying to understand the mechanism of
the soul is blasphemous and the less logical a belief you have faith in is,
the greater your virtue.

>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

You say right at the beginning that you invert the qualia, if so then of
course, if you change the qualia then the qualia is changed, and my behavior
would change too, I'd be complaining about the weird red sky. If you bolted
on these glasses at my birth then my behavior would not change and it's far
from clear to me that my subjective experience would be different than what
it is now, and if you suddenly took off my colored glasses I would be
completely disorientated.

>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.

Just out of curiosity, why do you think it's easier to build an intelligent
machine than a conscious one? Considering Evolution's experience in building
such things, you could make a much stronger case that a computer might be
able to feel emotions but it could never be intelligent.

Nature found it much easier to come up with feeling than the ability to
reason, it's certainly came up with it first. The most ancient part of the
brain, the spinal cord, the medulla and the pons is similar to the brain of
a fish or amphibian and first made an appearance on the earth about 400
million years ago. According to Paul MacLean of the National Institute of
Mental Health it deals in aggressive behavior, territoriality and social

The Limbic System is about 150 million years old and ours is similar to that
found in other mammals. Some think the Limbic system is the source of awe and
exhilaration because it is the active sight of many psychotropic drugs,
there's little doubt that the amygdala, a part of the Limbic system has much
to do with fear. After some animals developed a Limbic system they started to
spend much more time taking care of their young, so it probably has something
to do with love too.

It is our grossly enlarged neocortex that makes the human brain so unusual
and so recent, it only started to get ridiculously large about 3 million
years ago. It deals in deliberation, spatial perception, speaking, reading,
writing and mathematics, the one new emotion we got was worry, probably
because the neocortex is also the place where we plan for the future.

If nature came up with feeling first and high level intelligence much later,
I don't see why the opposite would be true for our computers. It's probably
a hell of a lot easier to make something that feels but doesn't think than
something that thinks but doesn't feel.

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

Version: 2.6.i