John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Thu, 3 Jul 1997 21:12:22 -0700 (PDT)


On Wed, 2 Jul 1997 Brent Allsop <allsop@swttools.fc.hp.com> Wrote:

>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.

True, and a bunch of neurons and the strength of their interconnections is
not identical or even similar to 700 nm light either.

>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.

If your subjective experience was different but your behavior was the same
then consciousness would be useless as far as Evolution was concerned and
would have never bothered to produce it. To my mind this is one of the
strongest indications that you're wrong about behavior being unrelated to

>>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.

Agreed, except I still don't understand the A word.

>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.

When you drink a cup of coffee not only do some of these silly irrelevant
qualities chance but your behavior does too. Are you the same person after
you drink a cup of coffee?

>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.

You want to understand the mind but you don't want to use behavior and now
you don't want to use the only thing that can explain it, information theory.
I wish you good luck, you'll need it.

>red is not physically anything like 700 nm wavelength
>electromagnetic radiation.


>It only abstractly represents it.

There's that A word again.

>But then 700 nm light, or an abstract 32 bit number stored in an
>array of transistors, isn't anything like red either.

Slice open a brain and look at it, not only will you not find any 700 nm
light in it you will not find red either, it's gray. Open up a racing car,
you will not find speed inside. I think you're confusing levels.

>Phenomenal joys have intrinsic value.

The only thing that has intrinsic value is consciousness, by that I mean the
thing itself thinks it is valuable. If something is not conscious then it
doesn't think so it has no intrinsic value, although of course it could have
extrinsic value. Anyway, that's what I think.

>Actually experiencing a stunning sunrise has much more value than
>just abstractly reading about it or representing such in an abstract
>virtual reality computer.

That's because with our current technology the real sunset is much more
information rich than any produced in a computer. I see no reason why the
reverse couldn't be true someday

>>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

Looking at an object made of a new color against a red background would give
meaning to both colors they didn't have before.

>Just like gold will always be gold and always has been gold no
>matter how many more elements we have and will discover

That's because an element does not derive its meaning from the presence or
absence of another element, color is different. Without contrast color is

>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

Again, I agree but I don't see the relevance. Neither I nor an upload would
have an understanding of what deep reality is all about. So what? Appearances
are what's important, ultimate reality is for philosophers. As long as I
can get the universe to SEEM to obey me and operate in a way that pleases me,
that's good enough and I'll be a happy man. That's not asking too much,
now is it?

>>if you reject that [behavior] 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.

You may indeed be able to find the correct theory of consciousness, but there
is no way you could ever know it was correct or in any way better than the
other infinite number of consciousness theories. Maybe you do taste salt just
like I do, but there is no way to know it for sure.

>I will say: "Feel this, this is what salt tastes like to me."

And I will say I don't believe you. How do you know that the sensation I'm
feeling is anything like the one you are, and if you reject behavior, how do
you know I'm feeling anything at all?

>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 you come up with a new theory of Physics the only way to test it is by
observation. Actually that's not just true of physics but of all Science.
If you come up with a new theory of consciousness there is no observation to
test it on, there are no facts it must explain, that's why you could crank out
an infinite number of such theories with no way of knowing which one is

Science should investigate consciousness, and Science means observation.
I read Crick's book, I agree completely with him, and he realizes he will
get nowhere without studying behavior. It's difficult enough as it is,
why throw away your only tool?

>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

You can't use your consciousness theory because that's what you're trying to
test and the only feeling I can objectively observe is my own, so how could I
ever objectively prove you're conscious? This doesn't bother me much because
I take it as an axiom of existence that intelligent behavior means

>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

I agree, I don't believe in the soul, I think consciousness is indeed a
physical phenomenon. However, you can never learn anything about any physical
phenomena unless you observe the way it behaves. I am also convinced that if
you ignore information theory and assume that the value of a bit depends on
the way it is stored you're taking a huge step backward into the 19'th

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

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