RE: Conscious of the hard problem

O'Regan, Emlyn (
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 11:14:19 +1000

How about this:

Take a working (conscious) brain. Replace each connection between neuron X and neuron Y with a pair of humans sending e-mail or talking on a phone or whatever. The neurons are still alive. They produce signals, which are read by a human (via some piece of equipment), sent to a receiving human, who then stimulates the appropriate input of the receiving neuron.

The brain is still functioning (albeit with a time lag). The neurons are doing the information processing, they are communicating the same information to each other that they otherwise would. But they could be seperated, kept alive in little dishes, as in the previous scenarios.

I agree that the brain as a whole organ/organism is not alive, although its components are. But in exactly what way would this not qualify as conscious, if the original brain does qualify?

Emlyn in a jar

> ----------
> From: Harvey Newstrom[]
> Reply To:
> Sent: Wednesday, 23 June 1999 4:23
> To:
> Subject: Re: Conscious of the hard problem
> On Tuesday, June 22, 1999 1:20 am, O'Regan, Emlyn
> <> wrote:
> > by accumulating the correct set of neurons (judged by their firings) and
> > imposing an (artificial) topology. Yet I'm not ready to dismiss this
> idea
> > completely. Who is to judge what is artificial?
> I must be missing something here, but no one has yet explained why they
> consider the disassembled brain to be alive. It cannot think by itself.
> Any thoughts must be preplanned and executed by the human caretakers for
> the
> brain. It can be "stimulated" just as a dead brain can. But it does not
> react to the stimulus. No neuron fires unless its caretaker fires it. No
> memory occurs unless the caretaker stored the memory.
> The entire modeling process can occur in the absence of the so-called
> brain.
> If there is a consciousness, it is contained by all the living humans who
> are doing the brain modeling. The dead brain neurons are not processing,
> communicating, remembering, thinking or reacting. The are acting no
> differently than a dead brain would act. They are just being placed in
> proximity to living humans who are modeling a brain. What am I missing
> that
> makes this disembodied brain meet any definition of consciousness?
> I agree with the apparent aim of these "thought experiments", that is to
> lead a person to realize that consciousness can be contained in non-human
> brains. I disagree with the specific example that claims the dissected
> brain is still alive and functional because every separate neuron remains
> intact. As a psychology minor and a biology minor, I am adamant that this
> brain is not alive or conscious by any definition I know.
> --
> Harvey Newstrom <mailto://>
> <>
> Author, Consultant, Engineer, Legal Hacker, Researcher, Scientist.