Re: qualia

Robin Hanson (
Thu, 02 Dec 1999 10:34:23 -0500

I've never yet ventured into one of these qualia discussions, but I thought I'd just add my two cents for once.

It seems to me that the essential question is: "What does it feel like to be a rock?" Or a star, or a plant, etc. We know it feels like something to be living humans, at least we presume this is true for most of us. So either: 1) Everything has something it feels like to be it, or 2) Only some things have something if feels like to be them.

If 1, my question about rocks makes sense. If 2, then we face the hard question of which things feel and which things don't. As far as I can tell, no one is anywhere close to answering these questions. Sure, it might be reasonable to suppose that a computer emulating a human brain will feel like a brain does. But it is not that easy to objectively decide which things in the universe are "computers," nor to decide which programs if run would "feel." Even rocks compute something.

Robin Hanson Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323