Re: computer pain

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 01 Jan 2007 20:28:22 -0800

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>> >> Pain is limited on both ends: on the input by damage to the
>> physical >> circuitry and on the response by the possible range of
>> response.
>> > > Responses in the brain are limited by several mechanisms, such as
>> > exhaustion of neurotransmitter stores at synapses, negative feedback
>> > mechanisms such as downregulation of receptors, and, I suppose, the
>> > total numbers of neurons that can be stimulated. That would not be a
>> > problem in a simulation, if you were not concerned with modelling
>> the > behaviour of a real brain. Just as you could build a structure
>> 100km > tall as easily as one 100m tall by altering a few parameters
>> in an > engineering program, so it should be possible to create
>> unimaginable > pain or pleasure in a conscious AI program by changing
>> a few parameters.
>> I don't think so. It's one thing to identify functional equivalents
>> as 'pain' and 'pleasure'; it's something else to claim they have the
>> same scaling. I can't think of anyway to establish an invariant
>> scaling that would apply equally to biological, evolve creatures and
>> to robots.
> Take a robot with pain receptors. The receptors take temperature and
> convert it to a voltage or current, which then goes to an analogue to
> digital converter, which inputs a binary number into the robot's central
> computer, which then experiences pleasant warmth or terrible burning
> depending on what that number is. Now, any temperature transducer is
> going to saturate at some point, limiting the maximal amount of pain,
> but what if you bypass the transducer and the AD converter and input the
> pain data directly into the computer? Sure, there may be software limits
> specifying an upper bound to the pain input (eg, if x>100 then input
> 100), but what theoretical impediment would there be to changing this?
> You would have to show that pain or pleasure beyond a certain limit is
> uncomputable.

No. I speculated that pain and pleasure are functionally defined. So there could be a functionally defined limit. Just because you can put in a bigger representation of a number, it doesn't follow that the functional equivalent of pain is linear in this number and doesn't saturate.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Mon Jan 01 2007 - 23:28:43 PST

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