Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

John Clark (
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 00:37:51 -0400

Hash: SHA1 Wrote on Friday, June 18, 1999

>I believe Eliezer's logic is that if it is impossible to define whether
>a computation is instantiated

All of the really important things in life lack definitions but that doesn't seem to have cramped my style much. I've never seen a definition of "qualia" or "consciousness" that wasn't vague circular or just plain insipid, yet I know what the words mean, I just don't know how to communicate that meaning by banging on a keyboard or making noises with my mouth. Definitions are overrated, people seldom have them or need one.

>then there is no "fact of the matter" as to whether any given
>computation is instantiated in any given system.

If a computation (or a thought) does something like print a result or just open a switch then it's easy enough to tell when or if it happened. If I have no senses or actuators and am permanently isolated from the rest of the universe then it's meaningless to ask when a thought occurred, not just for an external observer but it's meaningless for me too. When did "green" happen?

So is an intelligent lookup table conscious? Certainly not, my brain is not conscious either although both imply Consciousness. Many (not all) of the problems surrounding this issue can Be avoided if you think of consciousness as an adjective not a noun. A racing car is not "fast" it goes fast, it's a demonstration of speed, and my brain is a demonstration, the only demonstration, of a particular sort of consciousness, the sort that calls itself "John Clark".

What about the intelligent lookup table? That would demonstrate the consciousness of the person who made the table.

What if a bottle of ink were knocked over and just by blind chance it formed the lookup table, would it be conscious then?

I don't know or care because that is a physically impossible situation. It's a situation that has never happened and almost certainly will never be seen by any observer in the universe, and that's as good a definition of "impossible" as you'll find.

What about Moravec's idea that a brain is determined by the relationship of its parts and that involves an arbitrary interpretation so all possible minds exist?

I'm an agnostic on the subject. All I know is that it's a tautology (and thus true) that intelligent behavior implies intelligence and it's an axiom that intelligence implies consciousness. Non intelligent behavior, like that produced by a rock, may or may not imply consciousness. My hunch is not.

John K Clark

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