Re: qualia

John Clark (
Wed, 1 Dec 1999 13:29:49 -0500

Brent Allsop <> On November 30, 1999 Wrote:

>there are two real obvious reasons [for evolution producing
>qualia]. First Phenomenal qualia are fantastic fore epresenting
>information. [...] I'm betting that evolution uses qualia because
>they are fundamentally and robustly motivational.

if true then you don't have to worry that it's lying when one of our intelligent computers says it is experiencing qualia because it would be easier for us to build one that does than one that does not.

>An abstract "1" or "0" have minimal diversity while the various different
> qualia are way diverse.

The genetic code used by DNA is digital (base 4) and yet is pretty darn diverse, the same is true of the English language except it's base 26.

> computer programmers are very limited in the amount of 1s and 0s they
> can keep in their head at once.

That's why programmers use assemblers and high level languages, but that doesn't mean the 1s and 0s are no longer there.

>But an even more compelling reason might be motivation. How
>motivated are current abstract AI programs?

They never get distracted they never get bored they never give up, in other words the trouble with AI programs is that they're far too motivated. A creative intelligence occasionally gets distracted, it also gets board and throws in the towel when a problem shows no sign of a solution, it can always find something more productive to work on. I think that if you can teach a machine the proper time to get board you're 80% of the way toward a true AI.

>the phenomenal qualities of qualia are fundamentally mostly
>motivational. Joys are constructed of qualia and these are
>mostly what makes us want what we want

It's perfectly true to say that the balloon got larger because I thought it would be fun to blow it up, but it's equally true to say that it got larger because the pressure inside it increased, But what is this thing "pressure"? Is it a mysterious non material fifth force that floats around in no particular place and causes things to expand? No, pressure is just a higher level description, a description of the collective motions of particles. The molecules don't know anything about pressure, they just bounce around according to Newton's law's of motion. Our tiny brains are not able to cope with the trillions of collisions of air molecules against the side of the balloon so we must go to a higher level description.

In this example you lose a little accuracy but at a huge saving in complexity, in some cases you may not lose any accuracy at all. Although It's perfectly true that William Shakespeare made his living and reputation by putting a subset of ASCII characters in a particular sequence I think you would do better in a literature test if you thought about it at a somewhat higher level.

Similarly it's usually not appropriate to talk about quantum jumps or even neuron firings when trying to understand human behavior (although Nanotechnology may change that) ; we use higher level concepts like qualia, judgment, belief, preference, emotion and free will.

Wow, all this talk about higher level meaning has made me nervous, I think I'll look at the air pressure graph I made at the last Beethoven Symphony and relax.

John K Clark