RE: UDA revisited

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2006 21:44:35 +1100

Colin Hales writes:
> >> So, I have my zombie scientist and my human scientist and
> >> I ask them to do science on exquisite novelty. What happens?
> >> The novelty is invisible to the zombie, who has the internal
> >> life of a dreamless sleep. The reason it is invisible is
> >> because there is no phenomenal consciousness. The zombie
> >> has only sensory data to use to do science. There are an
> >> infinite number of ways that same sensory data could arrive
> >> from an infinity of external natural world situtations.
> >> The sensory data is ambiguous - it's all the same - action
> >> potential pulse trains traveling from sensors to brain.
> Stathis:
> > All I have to work on is sensory data also.
> No you don't! You have an entire separate set of perceptual/experiential
> fields constructed from sensory feeds. The fact of this is proven - think
> of hallucination. When the senory data gets overidden by the internal
> imagery (schizophrenia). Sensing is NOT our perceptions. It is these
> latter phenomenal fields that you consciously work from as a scientist.
> Not the sensory feeds. This seems to be a recurring misunderstanding or
> something people seem to be struggling with. It feels like its coming from
> your senses but it's all generated inside your head.
OK, I'll revise my claim: all I have to work with is perceptions which I assume are
coming from sense data which I assume is coming from the real world impinging on
my sense organs. The same is true of a machine which receives environmental
input and processes it. At the processing stage, this is the equivalent of perception.
The processor assumes that the information it is processing originates from sensors
which are responding to real world stimuli, but it has no way of knowing if the data
actually arose from spontaneous or externally induced activity at any point from the
sensors, transducers, conductors, or components of the processor itself: whether
they are hallucinations, in fact. There might be some clue that it is not a legitimate
sensory feed, but if the halllucination is perfect it is by definition impossible to detect.
> > I can't be certain that there is a "real world" out there, and
> > even if there is, all I can possibly do is create a virtual
> > reality in my head which correlates with the patterns of sense
> > data I receive.
> Yes - the "virtual reality" is the collection of phenomenal scenes
> mentioned above .... is what you use to learn from, not the sense data.
> Put more accurately - you learn things that are consistent with the
> phenomenal scenes. There is a tendency in some circles to think of
> consciousness as an epiphenomenal irrelevance, devoid of causal
> efficacy... I would disagree in that it's causal efficacy is in CHANGE of
> belief (learning), not the holding of static belief. Scientific behaviour
> is all about changing belief.
> reality of the external world? It doesn't matter what you believe about
> the existence or otherwise of 'reality'. Whatever "it" is, we have an
> a-priori tool for perceiving it that is a phenomenon. i.e. Phenomenality
> is a real world phenomenon just as real as a rock. Leave the reality
> discussion to the campfire.
OK, let's avoid that thankless discussion...
> Whatever 'reality' is, it is regular/persistent/repeatable/stable enough
> to do science on it via our phenomenality and come up with laws that seem
> to characterise how it will appear to us in our phenomenality.
You could say: my perceptions are regular/persistent/repeatable/stable enough
to assume an external reality generating them and to do science on. And if a
machine's central processor's perceptions are similarly regular/persistent/
repeatable/stable, it could also do science on them. The point is, neither I nor
the machine has any magical knowledge of an external world. All we have is
regularities in perceptions, which we assume to be originating from the external
world because that's a good model which stands up no matter what we throw at it.
> > Certainly, it is ambiguous, and that is why we have science: we
> > come up with a model or hypothesis consistent with the sense data,
> > then we look for more sense data to test it.
> You describe scientific behaviour...yes, but the verification is not
> through sense data but through phenomenal fields. The phenomenal fields
> are NOT the sense data. Phenomenal fields can be ambiguous, yes.
> Scientific procedure deals with that.
> ..but..
> The sense data is separate and exquisitely ambiguous and we do not look
> for sense data to verify scientific observations! We look for
> perceptual/phenomenal data. Experiences. Maybe this is yet another
> terminological issue. Sensing is not perception.
If the perception is less ambiguous that the sense data, that is a false certainty.
> > Any machine which looks for regularities in sensory feeds
> > does the same thing. Are you saying that such a machine could
> > not find the regularities or that if it did find the
> > regularities it would thereby be conscious?
> I am saying the machine can find regularity in the sensory feeds - easily.
> That is does so does not mean it is conscious. It does not mean it has
> access to the external matural world.
> ..and that is not what WE do....we find regularity in the perceptual fields.
> Looking for regularity in sensory data is totally different process fro
> looking for regularity in a perceptual field. Multiple sensory feeds can
> lead to the same perceptual field. Multiple perceptual fields can arise
> out of the same sensory feeds. No matter how weird it sounds our brains
> can map sensory fields to the world outside...The sensory data is
> intrinsically ambiguous and not about the external world, but the world at
> the location of the transduction that created the sensory measurent. And
> an indirect transduction at that (a retinal cone protein isomerisation by
> a red photon is not a 'red photon experience' it is a
> protein-isomerisation experience - ie no experience at all!)
> I had no idea people were so confused about the distinction between
> sensing and perception. I hope I am helping.
It's an important distinction, but I think it is more complex than the dichotomy
sensing/perception suggests. There are multiple stages from the interface
between the environment and the sensory organ and the ultimate perception,
and some processing of the signal occurs at each stage: nerve ganglia, the
thalamus, various cortical levels. What we normally call "consciousness" seems
to occur at the highest level of processing, but that may just be because that
highest level is the dictator with ultimate control over, for example, what my
hands are typing at the moment. Phenomena such as blindsight and the
appearance of consciousness in other animals with less complex brains at least
raise the possibility that some sort of consciousness/perception may be ocuuring
at lower levels of processing in the nervous system, maybe all the way down to
ganglia. Of course, ganglia don't come up with scientific theories, but this may not
be because they are unable to perceive but simply because they lack sufficient
processing power. Dogs don't come up with scientific theories either, and most
people think that is because dogs are not smart enough rather than because they
are not conscious. Similarly, our current machines may be able to "perceive" at a
basic level, but they aren't smart enough to come up with scientific theories based
on their perceptions.
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sat Nov 25 2006 - 05:44:56 PST

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