Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

Damien Broderick (
Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:25:50 +0000

At 06:33 PM 18/06/99 -0700, Hal wrote:

>Now I am speculating a bit, but I believe that Eliezer's position
>is that qualia are not a crucial and necessary aspect of the mental
>structure of a successful organism. It should be entirely possible
>for intelligent beings to evolve and succeed without qualia, because
>all that is really necessary is the ability to model the environment,
>extrapolate possible events, come up with plans, and so on, all of which
>seem to be computational tasks (hence not requiring qualia).

My 2 A-cents, from THE LKAST MORTAL GENERATION, chap. 4:

One can imagine a world of zombies, [philosopher David Chalmers] asserts, just like ours but *lacking* consciousness. The brains of these zombies mimic ours precisely, but there's no light on inside. They act and speak and laugh and `love', but are mere automatons. Since this nightmare is logically possible, Chalmers says, consciousness must be something over and above mere neural structure in action.

What is it, then? Information, he concludes. Not an answer to give the faithful any comfort, admittedly. Chalmers believes a complex artificial intelligence system would be conscious. So he is not proposing to reinstate an immaterial soul. He puts it neatly: `Experience is information from the inside; physics is information from the outside.' Inside what, though? Inside the mind, with the qualia. But that leaves us where we came in. Besides, I would argue that we cannot truly imagine a zombie world, any more than we can truly imagine a world exactly like ours, full of jittering molecules but without heat. Stewart and Cohen provide an amusing analogy to support this suspicion. Imagine a *zombike*, they suggest, `which is *exactly like a bicycle in every way* except that it does not move when the pedals are pushed. Oh, mystic miracle of ineffable immateriality, the source of motion in a bicycle is not anything physical!'29 The zombie analogy, at root, is no more persuasive nor even intelligible.

Damien Broderick