Re: Qualia and the Galactic Loony Bin

John Clark (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 11:10:51 -0400

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Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> On Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Wrote:

   >>Content yourself with constructing an intelligent mind, you'll get qualia
   >> for free. Probably.

>What do you mean, "probably"? I think you should strengthen your
>argument, here: "Content yourself with constructing an intelligent
>system, and when you're done you'll find that you'll have completely
>explained every real phenomenon that you could have been using the term
>'qualia' to describe."

Then you would have certainly explained qualia and much more importantly, done so correctly. Probably. The trouble is that consciousness theories are very easy to dream up and are thus useless because there is no way to know which one is correct. Theories that explain intelligence on the other hand are fiendishly difficult to come by and so are profoundly useful. I don't know for sure that intelligence always produces consciousness but I do know that if you assume it does you'll never be disappointed.

>If we toss an entity into a black hole, all the internal interactions remain
>the same. If it claimed to be conscious previously, it will claim to be conscious now.

It may well be conscious but will never make such a claim because there will be nobody to make the claim to.

>I'm not interested in our "knowledge" of other
>consciousnesses, just as I'm not in the least interested in our
>knowledge about the Universe. I'm interested in the actual Universe.

I don't think you really mean that, I certainly hope not because if you spend your life spinning your wheels trying to do the impossible, like squaring the circle or proving with mathematical certainty that minds other that your own are conscious, your scientific endeavors will come to nothing and your dreams will go unfulfilled. I think you're too smart to let that happen.
Besides, knowledge of the universe is the only thing about it you can ever know.

>If every possible version of myself exists, so that all sets
>of qualia are equally weighted, why is it that there's a connection
>between past and present? [...] Yes, I know, those sets of qualia
>would necessarily exist. But Yudkowsky's Modified Anthropic
>Occam's Razor says the reductionist version of the Universe is more probable

After hearing you say that because a dropped ink bottle might randomly form an intelligent lookup table my ideas must be wrong I was very surprised to read of your preference for the most likely event.

        >> Me:
        >> The large scale structure of the Universe can have local effects

>Consider the Universe as a gigantic Life board, starting out at T=0 with
>all cells randomized. At time 1e20, then the conscious entity that
>evolved on the board cannot be influenced by any events more than 1e20
>cells away.

Two Points:
1) If the size of the Life board was different the patterns produces by evolution

would be different thus the local conditions would be different. 2) Our Universe must be more that a game of life because Quantum Mechanics

can not be simulated with a simple cellular automation like that.

>"Causal contact", unlike "A caused B", is clearly defined by both
>mathematical formalisms for Turing machines (if any possible value of a
>variable has any effect on the internal process, it's causally connected),

So "causal contact" means having "any effect" and to have "any effect" you must have "causal contact". Well I admit that's a clear definition, but it has other rather obvious difficulties.

>anything we can have a need to explain
>must be accounted for in some way by the *local* laws of physics -
>otherwise, what mystical force is causing you talk about them?

I know it's weird and call it mystical if you want but It's an experimental fact that Bell's inequality is violated, and it would not be violated if the world was locally causal. Even if we someday find a better theory than Quantum Mechanics that theory must be non local because it must explain that experimental result.

>Besides, are you really going to stake everything on your belief that
>the Universe is fundamentally limited? What a depressing philosophy.

I'm not going to pretend that I know if the Universe is limited or not, but I do know one thing, it either is or is not and it matters not at all if you or I approve of either possibility or not.

                      John K Clark

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