Re: Conscious of the hard problem

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 21:28:58 -0500

David Blenkinsop wrote:
> I still tend to agree with Tim Bates, even though his characterization
> of the hard/non-hard distinction is doubtless oversimplified. The
> closest analogy to this "hard consciousness problem" that I can think of
> would be to consider the metaphysical problem of existence, or of why
> does anything exist at all. For the most part, I think that
> scientifically minded people would be justified in dismissing this old
> existential chestnut -- after all, the world *does* exist, so let's get
> on with it!

How is this different from saying, "Forget photons and light spectra - rainbows exist, so let's get on with it!"? Asking "Why does anything exist at all?" is a fully legitimate question of physics. I believe that there will never be a Theory of Everything, a theory that can predict the behavior of any natural phenomenon, which does not also answer this question. Just as there will never be a complete theory of the mind (one which can predict my behavior in all circumstances) which does not also fully explain the apparent subjectivity, irreducibility, undoubtability, and unity of qualia. After all, I wrote that sentence, didn't I?

You are quite right in that what I have called "the hard problem of existence" is the closest analogy to the hard problem of consciousness.

> Now, in this discussion, if causality is, itself, so darned
> questionable, then why don't we just ignore causality and whip ourselves
> up an FTL drive from a bunch of tachyonic wave patterns, or FTL wave
> guide velocities, or something? No worries here, I mean who cares if the
> light always comes on *before* you flip the switch! Now I'm talking
> nonsense, you see, *of course* causality is for real -- just like
> computations, feelings, consciousness, "life, the universe and
> everything", is for real, real by definition, as it were.

Actually, I've always maintained that scientists refusing to believe in naked singularities or closed timelike lines is a case of simple chauvinism. "We don't want to believe in paradoxes because, er, they're so ugly." It is absolutely no different, in form or content, from people refusing to believe that the Earth is not the center of the Universe. They cite no justifications from experiment or physical law. They don't want to believe in it, so it can't exist.

I happen to believe that time travel is explicitly permitted by General Relativity, which forbids a single correct direction of time just as Special Relativity forbids an "ether" or single correct reference frame.

So, yes, again you're quite right - at least I'm consistent.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way