John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 21:56:48 -0700 (PDT)


Some of my objections to Brent's contention that we will be able to prove
things about consciousness just like we do about Geometry, may strike you as
ridiculously unlikely. I agree, but it's no more bizarre than rejecting the
link between intelligence and consciousness, lots of things are logically
possible but not worth considering.

I see no reason why someday we will not have an excellent theory of
intelligence. Actually I thing we'll have a pretty good theory of
consciousness too, but not unless we make a number of assumptions and not
one we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to be better than any other such
theory, just beyond a reasonable doubt.

>Brent Alsip <allsop@swttools.fc.hp.com>
>We will so thoroughly understand the laws of physical consciousness
>and how they correspond and predict what WE feel as we observe,
>manipulate and stimulate our own brain

Because your own consciousness is the only one you can observe you must use
yourself as a test subject, by performing experiments on yourself you hope
to develop a theory to " thoroughly understand the laws of physical
consciousness". Understanding means being able to make predictions, so that
could not work. Turing proved that a finite state machine can not always
predict what it will do next, for example if it will stop. If we are
finite state machines then we can't understand ourselves completely and if
we are not then we have a soul and Science can not help us in this matter.

>that there will be no other possibility

Even with something much less exotic and far more tangible than consciousness,
like heat or pressure, we can't PROVE that other theories currently unknown
can not explain the facts as well as standard Thermodynamics or maybe even
better. If we can't prove we have the one true theory for something that
simple how could we do it for something astronomically more complex? You'll
never be able to prove a rock is not conscious, it might not achieve it the
same way you do but by some other method you know nothing about.

>but that others with similar neural correlates are experiencing
>similar sensations.

Similar? If something is similar then it is not identical. If the failure of
my upload to reproduce apparently trivial qualities like the color of my
brain, changes consciousness so much that it is no longer me, then how can you
ignore the much more profound differences between one person and another?
If you're correct then tiny changes in a brain can lead to profound
differences in consciousness, even if the behavior changes not at all.
It would also seem that some very big differences in brain mechanism can
sometimes have no effect on consciousness, for example, if my brain ran
backward for an hour and then forward, my consciousness would be unaffected
even though my brain was operating very differently.

>>Hal Finney <hal@rain.org>
>>The person I was debating with maintained that the people might not
>>be conscious while in the computer, that the downloading process
>>actually would end up inserting false memories of earlier conscious
>>experiences. While logically possible, I think the discrepancy
>> between this point of view and the sense people had of their
>> experiences would make it effectively unsupportable.

>Why? If this was true then I could argue that the artificial
>fictional memories implanted in Arnold's mind during Total Recall
>prove that the fictional experience was real simply because it
>"struck" Arnold that they were real.

All memories are real, whether they correspond to the physical objects they
claim to is another question entirely, but as consciousness is not a physical
object this is not relevant.

>we will know that memories reverse uploaded from an "abstract"
>simulation of ourselves are not real memories of real feelings we
>actually had but that they are merely from abstract, unfeeling,

You're saying that this theory is so good that I would be able to know what
it's like to be you BETTER than you do. If I said "I'm sorry Brent but after
studying your brain and using my theory I must conclude you're not conscious"
then you would have to say "you know best, I thought I was conscious but
I was wrong". I would have more claim to be Brent Alsip than you do, I know
him better.

Suppose a doctor told you that you were born with a rare brain disorder but
fortunately there is a cure. You take a pill and notice no difference. The
doctor says that you have never in your entire life been conscious until
you took that pill 10 seconds ago, your memories of being sentient before
that were "false" memories. Would you consider such a doctor to be a quack?

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

Version: 2.6.i