Re: qualia

Dan Fabulich (
Mon, 29 Nov 1999 21:40:08 -0500 (EST)

'What is your name?' 'Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.' 'IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!':

> I think qualia are the result of non-Turing-computable processes that we
> probably can't duplicate artificially with today's technology, so why
> bother?

Having read your website, you hint at why you believe this, but, to the best of my knowledge, you never specify why. You mention that it has something to do with the problem of defining instantiation, but I have no idea what you might be referring to.

In thinking about the problem only a little bit, it seems to me that what you may be referring to is what philosophers of language refer to as the problem of "translation" from one language into another. That is, defining instantiation is easy: A instantiates B when A yields the same output as B for any input. The problem is ascertaining whether the I/O is, in fact, the same.

This might seem easy at first if the I/O are written on similar medium (if they both use punch cards, say, or magnetic tape), but that doesn't go far enough. Surely, for example, a universal Turing computer designed with white/black paintbrushes writing on colored paper could instantiate a Turing computer designed with magnetic tape. Right off, however, you find the necessity for a translation rule: Maybe 0 = black, 1 = white.

This problem gets worse and worse as you start trying to test the outer boundaries of the language. How weird a Turing computer can you build that still instantiates the first one? What constitutes a well-defined translation rule? (Hofstadterian considerations apply here.)

Am I on the right track here?


-unless you love someone-
-nothing else makes any sense-

e.e. cummings