Experiencing Red (was Re: Uploading, that's needed !! -Reply -Reply -Reply)

Keith Elis (hagbard@ix.netcom.com)
Tue, 25 Nov 1997 18:59:28 -0500

Brent Allsop wrote:

> Red has real qualities. We directly experience Red. We know

> what red is like. We can even come up with textual responses to try

> to describe what red is and isn't like.

I agree that we experience red (directly or indirectly), and I also agree
that we know what red is "like." But I gave it a whirl, and I am as yet
unable to describe red without reference to something else. I don't think
"red" has any qualities other than redness.

> Any machine that was
> abstractly simulating the behavior of a consciousness that experienced
> red, rather than actually producing conscious red, would have to have
> very complex abstract representations to identically reproduce all the
> qualities of red itself.

First, a machine that did so, need not do it abstractly. I think those
with the counterpoint to your position are suggesting that if the brain
can do it with physical components, a tech-based "brain" made of
non-biological physical compnents should be able to do it. But this is a
common argument which we see all the time around here. :-)

The more controversial suggestion is that no matter how amazing our
hardware "brain," there is no way to purposefully program the brain to
experience a universal red signal. Specifically, and since I argue red has
no qualities other than redness, the red "signal" some seem to be talking
about may not be universal at all. Consider that in stimulating the optic
nerve (or the visual cortex) we directly remove a step from the process of
"seeing." If we've always experienced red by way of this step, and it has
been circumvented, it is likely that the artificial signal we apply will
not be the same as the signal we have come to identify as red. Especially
since our subjective experiences have as much to do with what "red" is as
does our ability to see color.

The consequence, if this is valid, is that the only way to program such a
manufactured brain to see red, is to provide it with a visible light
detection device and let it "live" among redness for a while. Then it will
be able to assign a textual label to the experience. Comments?

> [...] You'd be programming a computer to lie if you tried to
> make it describe what red was really like.

It seems impossible without reference to something else.

Boat drinks,