Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

Darin Sunley (
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 13:52:11 -0500

"O'Regan, Emlyn" wrote:

> One objection raised was that the rule based system was necessary to create
> the pattern based system. But you can work the other way round. Take this
> new pattern based system, and you can create a new causal system. Start with
> the initial patterns as axioms. Theorems have a sequence. Now we can create
> rules of derivation X->Y for each adjacent (in time) theorem pair X and Y.
> Then remove all the theorems. All you have left is the initial axioms and a
> LOT of rules of derivation. A causal system. But it looks more like a
> pattern based (lookup table) system.
> There really isn't a good difference between a system of derivation rules
> and a lookup table. For someone sufficiently familiar with the derivation
> system, it IS a lookup table, because they can "see" (in their mind's eye)
> all the theorems by contemplating the system. For example, chess looks a lot
> like a formal system of few axioms and rules of derivations to a beginner,
> and a lot more like a lookup table to a chess master. The ability to see
> past the axioms and derivations to the theorems, with calculation, would
> seem to constitute what it is to understand something.
> What I am claiming is that a set of theorems derived from a formal system is
> an isomorphism of a formal system. A pattern based system is an isomorphism
> of a causal system.
> But if someone says "Non-deterministic", I might vanish in a puff of smoke.
> Emlyn

The problem with classifying theories of consciousness into "causal" vs. non-causal is we dno't have much better definitions of causal then we do for consciousness. (Eliezer, any idea how to build a computer that can understand causal relations?)

We know the macro-universe, the one we all live in, with processor chips, and trees and grass and people supports the existence of this thing called causality.

We know the hardware this macro-universe is built on (wave functions, state-vector reduction, 15 dimensional strings) exists with a time independant nature whereby causality starts to look more then a little messed up. This manifests itself when an observer starts flying around near the speed of light and gets into violent arguments with ground control about which came first, the chicken or the egg?

One of the major differences between the macro and micro scale universe is that phenomenon that occur in the macro universe are computable, while phenomenon that occur in the micro universe are not. We CAN simulate the flight of a jet plane to sufficient detail to design one. Even to the point of simulating the finest detail, highest precision parts we are capable of manufacturing. I think we could probably do a simulation of a scanning electron microscope head moving atoms around. These are macro objects, and behave in a computable manner. It's interesting though, that we can simulate the flight of a jet plane better then a Turing computer will EVER be able to simulate the "flight" of an electron.

If we are prepared to assume that qualia are a phenomenon, the question is then, on which scale does this phenomenon occur. One theory of mine is that what we call qualia a merely hardwired bits of the visual cortex that are brought in and out of processing as our sense data changes. Removing a visual cortext will certainly remove these qualia, but not make a person any less conscious, whatever THAT means. This presupposes that qualia are a macro phenomena, arising from patterns of chemical production/distribution within the brain.

On the other hand, qualia, could be a micro phonomenon, a la Penrose.

One important way of distinguishing between them may be to look at perceptions of ours that don't appear to involve qualia. What about the perception of time, for example? My personal theory is that our "perception" of time is closely related to the rate at which our brains process/propagate chemical messages. Macro process. But it COULD be a micro process.

Darin Sunley