Re: :Weird mysterious ineffable stuff

John Clark (
Tue, 21 Sep 1999 01:34:00 -0400

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> Wrote:

>I tend to assume that qualia started out as a spandrel (like
>bug-catchers becoming wings), then got tied in to reflectivity or the
>"system bus" that ties the senses together.

That must be true or we wouldn't have qualia, that's also why I think the Turing Test works for consciousness as well as intelligence.

>The mysterious ineffable stuff was probably just a computational
>speedup - like Penrose's quantum computing, for example.

I have three problems with Penrose:

  1. There is not one scrap of experimental evidence that it's happening and there should be if it were true.
  2. The inside of a neuron seems to be far too hot and noisy for quantum coherence to be possible, much less quantum computation. You'd need new fundamental laws of physics for this to work, that's another way of saying you'd need magic and I don't like to invoke magic if I don't need to. I don't need to.
  3. If it were true you'd think people would be good at solving some of the known non computational problems, that is, problems that can only be solved in a time proportional to 2^N where N is the number of elements in the problem. However, human beings aren't one bit better at solving these sort of problems than computers are, actually computers are better at it than people but still, I admit, not very good.
      >all else being equal, an ineffable AI is smarter or more efficient than a
      >computational one.  It doesn't mean you can't get equally good or better
      >improvements with more computational power or better programming.

Then if you want to make an AI with a certain intelligence, average human level for example, it would be easier to make an AI that experiences qualia than one that doesn't. That really shouldn't surprise you, considering Evolution's experience in building such things, you could make a much stronger case that a computer might be able to feel emotions but it could never be intelligent.

Nature found it much easier to come up with feeling than the ability to reason, it certainly came up with it first. The most ancient part of the brain, the spinal cord, the medulla and the pons is similar to the brain of a fish or amphibian and first made an appearance on the earth about 400 million years ago, it deals in aggressive behavior, territoriality and social hierarchies.

The Limbic System is about 150 million years old and ours is very similar to that found in other mammals. Some think the Limbic system is the source of awe and exhilaration because it's the active sight of many psychotropic drugs, there's little doubt that the amygdala, a part of the Limbic system, has much to do with fear. After some animals developed a Limbic system they started to spend much more time taking care of their young, so it probably has something to do with love too.

It's our grossly enlarged neocortex that makes the human brain so unusual and so recent, it only started to get ridiculously large about 3 million years ago. It deals in deliberation, spatial perception, speaking, reading, writing and mathematics. The one new emotion we got was worry, probably because the neocortex is also the place where we plan for the future.

If nature came up with feeling first and high level intelligence much later, I don't see why the opposite would be true for our computers. It must be one a hell of a lot easier to make something that feels but doesn't think than something that thinks but doesn't feel.

John K Clark