Brent Allsop (allsop@swttools.fc.hp.com)
Wed, 2 Jul 1997 13:27:43 -0600

John K Clark <johnkc@well.com> continued:

> All models are abstract.

Yes, in a way I agree with you. But your missing the real
issue I'm trying to point out. If one set of physical phenomenon,
like transistors, magnetic memory, wires, and such are organized in
such a way that they model 700 nm light reflecting off a surface it is
not identically and fundamentally "like" the actual physical
phenomenon. Another set of identical physical phenomenon is much more
like it than something that is merely abstractly like it.

> What about the difference between reading text on my cathode ray
> tube and reading it on yours, would that make it different text and
> a different post?

If we had identical CRTs and computers, and our brains used
the same qualia to represent the information being displayed, our
subjective experiences would be much more alike than if you or I used
a different quale to represent the text that was being displayed on
our screens. If my brain used a different color quale to represent
the text it would be a different experience, though the behavior and
understanding about the contents of the text may be the same.

> My post does not need to be precisely the same for it to be my
> post. My uploaded brain would not need to be precisely the same for
> it to be me, some aspects of my brain are not important, like its
> color or taste or the sound it would make when dropped from a 5
> story building.

Abstractly or behaviorally speaking, yes. But if you are
interested in the precise subjective experience and what it is really
consciously like, the particular qualia used, and what it is like,
does make a difference.

> If the value of a bit was determined by the way it was represented
> then the concept of "bit" would be completely useless. The computer
> revelation started when people discovered this is not true and
> information exists independent of the thing that represents it.

Yes! Abstraction and independence of the particular physical
representation are very powerful computational and modeling notions.
But this has become one of the issues that is blinding us from being
able to discover precisely what consciousness is and what it is made
of. It is blinding us to the important issue of what consciousness is
fundamentally like, as opposed to what it merely represents.

> When we look at a color we feel a lot of pleasure or a little
> pleasure or no pleasure at all. I don't know how many levels the
> human mind needs but I'll bet a 32 bit number could cover it.

No disagreement here. Color detecting machines are much
better than we are at detecting and representing what color things
are. I completely agree that all emotions can also be accurately
represented by sufficiently complex abstract machines.

> I don't see how any sensation can be anything but " completely
> abstract"

Yes, red is not physically anything like 700 nm wavelength
electromagnetic radiation. It only abstractly represents it. But
then 700 nm light, or an abstract 32 bit number stored in an array of
transistors, isn't anything like red either.

> I'm totally confused why you equate abstract with valueless.

Phenomenal joys have intrinsic value. They are what give
things value in life. Actually experiencing a stunning sunrise has
much more value than just abstractly reading about it or representing
such in an abstract virtual reality computer. Until it is represented
and experienced by phenomenal and glorious qualia it has no real
intrinsic value. That is why computer motivation has to be
laboriously and complexly programmed while our representations give us
simple, direct, intrinsic, natural, and much more robust motivations.

> If I discovered a new color then my understanding of red would
> change too, into something much richer.

I simply don't agree with you here. Red is and always will be
red. Just like gold will always be gold and always has been gold no
matter how many more elements we have and will discover and/or
synthetically produce. Discovering or producing a new element has no
effect on what gold is like.

> > Are you claiming that your subjective experience would be identical
> > since your behavior could be identical whether you wear color
> > inverting glasses or not?

> Yes, if I wore the glasses from birth. I can't prove it but I'm
> convinced that's true.

You can't YET prove it. When we achieve the ability to freely
manipulate significant portions of the brain and thereby the resulting
consciousness this kind of understanding will become inevitable. We
will know for sure who's theories more closely predict what we will be
able to do and understand. One of us will eventually be convinced
that we were wrong.

> Then I don't have knowledge of anything. I thought I "knew" that the
> earth went around the sun and the moon went around the earth but I
> am not the earth, I am not the sun and I am not the moon.

Your still missing the point. You have phenomenal models in
your consciousness that are little round phenomenal earths, suns, and
moons that go around each other in your brain. But again, that real
moon up in the sky and beyond your senses is not fundamentally like
your subjective and phenomenal representation of that moon that is
produced by your optic neurons, in your consciousness, when you look
at it.

> Do you just mean subjective experience? If not can you give me a
> specific example of "non abstract knowledge"?

If there is precisely the same subjective qualia representing
text on a cathode ray tube in my consciousness to that which is
representing the same text in your consciousness then we have more
than "abstract" knowledge about what that qualia is consciously like.
Your and my experience would be the same, not merely an abstract model
of each other.

> Because the only tool we have to investigate consciousness, or even
> determine that any exists other than our own, is behavior, if you
> reject that you have nothing left.

No, we have much more than that. All I must do is reproduce
the same sensations in your consciousness in order for me to "eff"
them. I will say: "Feel this, this is what salt tastes like to me."
Once you feel how salt tastes like to me you will know how it is and
isn't like what you use to represent a salty taste just as you know
salt doesn't taste anything like sugar or any other sensation. Since
your understanding of the physics will be so thorough and reproducible
in your own mind, you will know that there is no other possibility but
that that is how salt tastes for me.

> If it accurately predicts behavior that would be good enough for me,
> but not you, you want more proof but you will never get it. How will
> you ever know if your theory accurately predicts subjective
> experience when you have no way of independently knowing what that
> subjective experience is?


> How on Earth could we ever know that?

When we thoroughly understand the physics involved and
objectively watch the neural corelate in our own brain and see how
they precisely map to and predict the feelings we feel, the subjective
will be objectively verified and we will have effing capability. It's
simply a matter of self calibration, and eventual expansion of our
conscious worlds using these new laws of phenomenally conscious

> If true then you can be certain it is NOT the same sensation because
> it can not possibly be the identical neural correlate, they are
> different brains, and in your same post you said " Only identical
> physical phenomenon can perfectly model every single quality and
> attribute of another."

I admit that sensations are complex and intermixed with and
interdependent of each other in the spirit world of our consciousness.
This is one of the problems with understanding all this. But, my
theory or prediction is, that there are some fundamental physical
phenomenon that each of our brains use, possibly in subtly and even
occasionally grossly different ways, to build our conscious worlds of
awareness just as the complex and diverse world beyond our senses is
constructed of the basic physical elements in the periodic table. Red
is forever red and no other sensation is like it just like gold is
forever gold and no other element is like it.

Brent Allsop