Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

Harvey Newstrom (
Mon, 21 Jun 1999 17:52:15 -0400

On Monday, June 21, 1999 4:26 pm, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> So to continue this thought experiment, suppose that after your
> roomful of living engineers have used their memories of the once-
> live brain to contruct a robot ("dead brain") that exhibits all
> its apparently conscious behaviors, after which a virus wipes
> them all out. Are those apparently conscious behaviors of the
> surviving robot going to go away, or do they no longer qualify
> as conscious simply because no conscious-by-definition human is
> around to judge?

Not at all. It seems obvious to me that the robot functions independently and can trigger its bits and store memory without the engineers. It is obviously conscious to some degree. The disembodied neurons in your previous example cannot trigger its bits and store memory without the engineers. It is obviously an inanimate object.

> Suppose that robot then uses its knowledge to
> construct a human genome from recordings, mechanically generates
> DNA from it, implants it into a cow egg and grows a new human.
> Where, then, does that person's consciousness come from, if it is
> not simply a consequence of the biochemical activity of the meat
> machine?

It does indeed come from the biochemical activity of the meat machine. However, you have dismantled the meat machine in your previous example. Even though all its parts are still available, they are no longer functioning together as a system. Machines stop functioning when they are dismantled. This disembodied "brain" cannot answer questions or hold secrets separate from the engineers. Any thought or function you ascribe to it must first be performed by the engineers and then "credited" to the disembodied brain.

Harvey Newstrom <mailto://> <>
Author, Consultant, Engineer, Legal Hacker, Researcher, Scientist.