Re: Sentience Quotient [was Re: qualia]

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 03 Dec 1999 11:38:12 -0500

Robert Bradbury wrote:
> > 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.
>I think Robert Freitas has taken a first step in this direction.
>Chapter 14 (Extraterrestrial Intelligence) of his Xenology (unpublished
>book) has a discussion about a "Sentience Quotient" based on Bremermann's
>information density limits.
> "...Sentience Quotient... [is] The maximum bit rate a sentient
> creature can process per unit time interval (in bits/second),
> divided by the quantity of mass-energy the entity needs to do it
> (in kilograms).

I don't understand how this helps. Even if we could objectively determine an SQ for all objects, how does that tell us what it feels like to be a rock? And I have strong doubts that one can objectively assign a bits/sec number to objects like rocks.

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