Brent Allsop (allsop@swttools.fc.hp.com)
Mon, 30 Jun 1997 13:37:45 -0600

John K Clark <johnkc@well.com> responded:

> I agree, except my intelligence has always concluded that all
> intelligence is abstract. What on earth would non abstract
> intelligence be like?

Most "representations" are abstract. Any physical phenomenon
that can assume a distinguishable state can model or represent other
phenomenon or represent information. But, though a representation can
"abstractly" model or represent other physical phenomenon if the two
are not the same fundamental physical phenomenon that is all they are
is abstract representations of each other. They are not fundamentally
precisely the same. Only identical physical phenomenon can perfectly
model every single quality and attribute of another. The identical
physical phenomenon is more than an abstract representation, it is the
phenomenon. There is nothing else precisely like it.

> I see nothing different in the slightest. You will treat this post
> much the same if you read it off a cathode ray tube, a liquid
> crystal screen, listen to it with a voice synthesizer or print it on
> a dead tree.

The cognitive content or meaning, yes. But the sensations
representing color text on a cathode ray tube are drastically
different than the sensations of hearing a voice synthesizer read it.
I'm not talking about the cognitive meaning, I'm talking about the
differences between the conscious physical sensations themselves.

> Yes, but why wouldn't the same thing be true of a machine, after
> all, a machine can have a favorite color too.

A future machine, endowed with the ability to feel differing
sensations of differing intrinsic value like we can, yes, but a
current abstract machine no. An abstract machine's "favorite" color
would simply be an arbitrary abstract representation or a setting of a
bit, not having anything to do with the fundamental value of any
actual feeling or the actual nature of the way the bit is represented.
When we try to figure out our favorite color we don't consult the
setting of some abstract bit like an abstract machine must, we try to
emotionally feel the various color sensations and see which is of most
value to us. Then we set an abstract bit of information representing
our discovery and communicate this as our favorite color.

A red sensation has much more intrinsic value than a pain
sensation produced by a burnt finger. The drastic difference between
the value of these two representations would have to be abstractly
programmed into an abstract machine. This is a much more difficult,
less reliable, and less meaningful proposition than the powerfully
intrinsic value our subjective representations we naturally have
without requiring such additional brittle programming and abstract

> A red quale in isolation is meaningless if all light produced a red
> sensation then color would signify nothing. The red color only has
> meaning if there is contrast, if there are other colors that are not
> red to compare it to.

No! I would much rather only be able to feel a single red
sensation (and no other color sensation) than to have all my
representations be completely abstract and valueless. True, there
must be distinguishable physical diversity before it can abstractly
represent information, but red, all by itself is intrinsically very
emotionally wonderful and valuable. It is fundamentally like something
and this something is of great value. Have you never heard of the
blind person that could only remember a patch of blue and how they
cherished that memory even though they could no longer really
experience or remember any other seeing experience? Are you denying
the existence of such "isolated" meaning and/or value?

Also, we know there is much more in the electromagnetic
spectrum than just the visible slice. Yet we know what our
representations of this visible spectrum are like without having
anything to represent the majority of wavelengths outside of this very
narrow spectrum. Some day we may discover other as yet unexperienced
quale and be able to use these to represent other than the visible
spectrum just like we use our current color qualia to abstractly
represent the visible spectrum. We do not require such additional
contrasting qualia to know what red is like.

> If you also changed my memory of those colors or made the switch the
> day I was born then my behavior today would be no different, just
> like the machine.

Your behavior would be no different but your representation of
red would still be different and not like what it would have been
otherwise. Once we objectively know what red is we will be able to
observe which of us have different phenomenal representations for 700
nm light. At least some of us (color blind people) use different
qualia to represent different wavelengths of light.

> You say my subjective experience would be different but give no
> evidence to support your claim.

Are you claiming that your subjective experience would be
identical since your behavior could be identical whether you wear
color inverting glasses or not? If such an absurd notion is what you
are claiming this is where the burden of proof should lie I would
think. You should try putting on some colored glasses some day and
see how different things feel even though you can still walk and so

> You'll have to take my word for it but I am not a machine, I am a
> human, but I can not answer what the sensations of red and blue are
> and I'm quite sure you can do no better.

Precisely! we can't YET eff. We don't yet objectively know
what color is. We only know subjectively within our own subjective
world what it is and is not like. The only information we can now
know about things outside our subjective spirit world is only abstract
information gathered by our senses and represented by our sensations.
We don't yet have the scientific understanding nor technical ability
to eff. But this is coming.

> Knowledge is an abstract quantity. Knowledge of anything is abstract.

As I said before, an identical duplicate of a physical
phenomenon is more than just "knowledge of" or a "model of" a physical
behavior, it is the same physical phenomenon. This kind of real, non
abstract, knowledge is the best kind of knowledge and the only real or
non abstract knowledge.

> You don't really think the debate on this issue will EVER come to an
> end do you?

Why would you ever lack the faith that we can figure it out?
What evidence is there that says it is any more difficult than any
other physical phenomenon we now finally understand? It's just a bit
more complex, and we have this troubling misperception that green is
either something that doesn't exist or that it is something, not in
our brain, but something on the surface of a leaf of a tree.

> OK, it's the year 2525 and you have just thought up a bright shiny
> new theory explaining exactly what subjective experience is all
> about. How do I know if it's even approximately correct?

Just like any other law of physics: it accurately predicts
what is occuring and enables us to control it. If we objectively and
reliably know that a particular neural corelate (as Crick likes to
call it) corresponds to a salty sensation then we will know if two
people use the same sensation to represent the taste of salt by
whether or not there is the identical neural corelate. If someone
uses a different than normal neural corelate to represent the taste of
salt with a different corresponding subjective quale, then we will
also be able to alter their neural wiring, give the proper stimulus,
and according to the newly discovered physical laws of consciousness
reliably tell or predict to them: "This sensation you are about to
feel is what most people use to represent a salty taste." "Boy,
that's not what salt tastes like to me!" they would likely feel after
the experience.

> No you're incorrect, that's not what salt tastes like to me at all,
> it's not even close. Prove I'm right. Prove I'm wrong.

Once we have the proper physical understanding such - proof,
or at least reliable demonstration, will be the results. That is all
I'm saying.

> Brent Allsop is an intelligent fellow but he is not conscious, in
> fact, all human beings are conscious, except Brent Allsop. Brent has
> some pitiful little thing he calls consciousness, but compared to
> the glorious subjective experience every other human has it's the
> difference between a firefly and a supernova. Prove I'm
> right. Prove I'm wrong.

Solipsism and anything like this can't yet be proved wrong,
given our current understanding and technical ability, there is only
evidence or occam's razor. But I'm betting all this stuff will be
proved wrong (or right) shortly when we finally discover what, why,
and how all this phenomenal stuff that is so full of value and meaning
in our mind is. We could achieve such understanding much faster if we
would stop claiming it is nothing or looking for it in the wrong place
beyond our senses or giving up in despair thinking it can't be done.
It's not that difficult if you just think about it in the proper
representational way.

As Crick Argues in his book, we are about to discover all
this. This will be the most significant immortalizing and world
changing discovery made by mankind to date. We will finally be able
to understand the answer to the question: "What am I?"; to answer your
questions; to eff; to be able to disprove solipsism..., and to finally
understand that we will be able to escape from this isolated and
lonely spirit prison inside our mortal skull and what will be required
and what it will really mean and feel like to do such.

Brent Allsop