Re: TECH: Fractal Tardis Brains

James Rogers (
Tue, 15 Jun 1999 12:53:48 -0700

At 10:34 PM 6/14/99 -0700, Hal wrote:
>Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, <>, writes:
>> Plain intelligence? Sure. Probably the vast majority of races across
>> the Reality are non-conscious until they Transcend. We're exceptions,
>> but, quite obviously, the only consciously observed exceptions in the
>> absence of a Singularity.
>That's an interesting possibility. So they could evolve intelligence,
>emotions, and many of the other trappings of life similar to ours, but
>they would be lacking qualia. They would not be conscious in the sense
>that we are. They would process information, they would have models of
>the world as we do, it would probably be meaningful for them to use the
>words "I" and "me" in conversations. But something would be different.

Perhaps I am being stubborn.

I don't see sentience or consciousness as a requirement for experiencing qualia. In fact, I would state that qualia occur at the same primitive levels as emotion and intelligence.

Qualia seem to be more of an evolutionary artifact than an emergent or some other heretofore unexplained phenomenon. It seems to me that the experience of qualia is an evolutionary prejudice to aid in the discrimination of important signals, primarily to augment the decision making process.

For example, humans and many animals have very specific hardwired emotional responses to different colors. "Redness", for example, triggers a low-level "danger" and "risk" response in humans, generally proportional to the amount of "redness" in their environment. This is most likely a reflection of the fact that throughout evolutionary history, many dangerous, risky, or negative things are red: poisonous snakes, poisonous insects, blood, etc. And it isn't just reflected in humans. Birds also respond to "redness" in a similar, though less context sensitive fashion; insects with red markings are generally an indication of toxicity or distastefulness to birds. The experience of qualia is a filter that evolved to feed (or perhaps create) hardwired prejudices in response to the environment. Having more intelligence only seems to affect how aware animals are of the context surrounding the qualia.

Now I realize that to a certain extent this is a vast simplification. I will grant that this doesn't explain why "red is red", but I view such distinctions as arbitrary and immaterial. Even if your experience of "redness" is different than mine, it does not change the fact that your hardwired response to the experience is similar to mine at the lowest levels. Selection pressure reinforces specific discriminations that are useful to the survival of the species, but individual responses are tempered by the context of our experience. Our manipulation of these subtle prejudices (like selecting the color of your car) reflect our own experiential context for these qualia.

I can't think of a reason why the experience of qualia should not exist as a result of evolutionary prejudice. I certainly see how such discrimination could evolve, but I don't see how it is necessarily critical to consciousness, particularly for AI where there would be no intrinsic source or reason for such discrimination to exist.

-James Rogers