RE: UDA revisited

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2006 14:24:19 +1100

Colin Hales writes:
> > You're being unfair to the poor zombie robots. How could they
> > possibly tell if they were in the factory or on the benchtop
> > when the benchtop (presumably) exactly replicates the sensory
> > feeds they would receive in the factory?
> > Neither humans nor robots, zombie or otherwise, should be
> > expected to have ESP.
> Absolutely! But the humans have phenomenal consciousness in lieu of ESP,
> which the zombies do not. To bench test "a human" I could not merely
> replicate sensoiry feeds. I'd have to replicate the factory! The human is
> connected to the external world (as mysterious as that may be and it's not
> ESP!). The zombie isn't, so faking it is easy.
I don't understand why you would have to replicate the factory rather than
just the sensory feeds to fool a human, but not a machine. It is part of the definition
of a hallucination that it is indistinguishable from the the real thing. People have done
terrible things, including murder and suicide, because of auditory hallucinations. The
hallucinations are so real to them that even when presented with contrary evidence,
such as someone standing next to them denying that they heard anything, they insist
it is not a hallucination: "I know what I heard, you must either be deaf lying".
> >> Now think about the touch..the same sensation of touch could
> >> have been generated by a feather or a cloth or another finger
> >> or a passing car. That context is what phenomenal
> >> consciousness provides.
> >
> > But it is impossible to differentiate between different sources
> > of a sensation unless the different sources generate a different
> > sensation. If you close your eyes and the touch of a feather
> > and a cloth feel the same, you can't tell which it was.
> > If you open your eyes, you can tell a difference because
> > the combined sensation (touch + vision) is different in the
> > two cases. A machine that has touch receptors alone might not
> > be able to distinguish between them, but a machine that has
> > touch + vision receptors would be able to.
> >
> Phenomenal scenes can combine to produce masterful, amazing
> discriminations. But how does the machine, without being told already by a
> human, know one from the other? Having done that how can it combine and
> contextualise that joint knowledge? You have to tell it how to learn.
> Again a-priori knowledge ...
A machine can tell one from the other because they are different. If they were
the same, it would not be able to tell one from the other, and neither would a
human, or a paramecium. As for combining, contextualising etc., that is what
the information processing hardware + software does. In living organisms the
hardware + software has evolved naturally while in machines it is artificial.
I think it is possible that any entity, whether living or artificial, which processes
sensory data and is able to learn and interact with its environment has a basic
consciousness. This would be consistent with your idea that zombies can't be
scientists. What I cannot understand is your claim that machines are necessarily
zombies. Machines and living organisms are just special arrangements of matter
following the laws of physics. What is the fundamental difference between them
which enables one to be conscious and the other not?
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sat Nov 25 2006 - 22:25:07 PST

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