Re: Searles' Fundamental Error

From: Mark Peaty <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 02:12:05 +0900

Stathis:'Would any device that can create a representation of the world,
itself and the relationship between the world and itself be conscious?'

MP: Well that, in a nutshell, is how I understand it; with the proviso
that it is dynamic: that all representations of all salient features and
relationships are being updated sufficiently often to deal with all
salient changes in the environment and self. In the natural world this
occurs because all the creatures in the past who/which failed
significantly in this respect got eaten by something that stalked its
way in between the updates, or the creature in effect did not pay enough
attention to its environment and in consequence lost out somehow in ever
contributing to the continuation of its specie's gene pool.

Stathis [in another response to me in this thread]: 'You can't prove
that a machine will be conscious in the same way you are.'

MP: Well, that depends what you mean;

   1. to what extent does it matter what I can prove anyway?
   2. exactly what or, rather, what range of sufficiently complex
      systems are you referring to as 'machines';
   3. what do you mean by 'conscious in the same way you are'?;

I'm sure others can think of equally or more interesting questions than
these, but I can respond to these.

   1. I am sure I couldn't prove whether or not a machine was conscious,
      but it the 'machine' was, and it was smart enough and interested
      enough IT could, by engaging us in conversation about its
      experiences, what it felt like to be what/who it is, and
      questioning us about what it is like to be us. Furthermore, as
      Colin Hales has pointed out, if the machine was doing real science
      it would be pretty much conclusive that it was conscious.
   2. By the word machine I could refer to many of the biological
      entities that are significantly less complex than humans. What
      ever one says in this respect, someone somewhere is going to
      disagree, but I think maybe insects and the like could be quite
      reasonably be classed as sentient machines with near Zombie status.
   3. If we accept a rough and ready type of physicalism, and naturalism
      maybe the word I am looking for here, then it is pretty much
      axiomatic that the consciousness of a creature/machine will differ
      from mine in the same degree that its body, instinctive behaviour,
      and environmental niche differ from mine. I think this must be
      true of all sentient entities. Some of the people I know are
      'colour blind'; about half the people I know are female; many of
      the people I know exhibit quite substantial differences in
      temperament and predispositions. I take it that these differences
      from me are real and entail various real differences in the
      quality of what it is like to be them [or rather their brain's
      updating of the model of them in their worlds].

    I am interested in birds [and here is meant the feathered variety]
    and often speculate about why they are doing what they do and what
    it may be like to be them. They have very small heads compared to
    mine so their brains can update their models of self in the world
    very much faster than mine can. This must mean that their
    perceptions of time and changes are very different. To them I must
    be a very slow and stupid seeming terrestrial giant. Also many birds
    can see by means of ultra violet light. This means that many things
    such as flowers and other birds will look very different compared to
    what I see. [Aside: I am psyching myself up slowly to start creating
    a flight simulator program that flies birds rather than aircraft.
    One of the challenges - by no mean the hardest though - will be to
    represent UV reflectance in a meaningful way.]

Stathis [from the other posting again]: 'There is good reason to believe
that the third person observable behaviour of the brain can be emulated,
because the brain is just chemical reactions and chemistry is a
well-understood field.'

MP: Once again it depends what you mean. Does 'Third person observable
behaviour of the brain' include EEG recordings and the output of MRI
imaging? Or do you mean just the movements of muscles which is the main
indicator of brain activity? If the former then I think that would be
very hard, perhaps impossible; if the latter however, that just might be

Stathis: 'I think it is very unlikely that something as elaborate as
consciousness could have developed with no evolutionary purpose
(evolution cannot distinguish between me and my zombie twin if zombies
are possible), but it is a logical possibility.'

MP: I agree with the first bit, but I do not agree with the last bit. If
you adopt what I call UMSITW [the Updating Model of Self In The World],
then anything which impinges on consciousness, has a real effect on the
brain. In effect the only feasible zombie like persons you will meet
will either be sleep walking or otherwise deficient as a consequence of
drug use or brain trauma. I think Oliver Sachs's book The Man Who
Mistook His Wife For a Hat gives many examples illustrating the point
that all deficiencies in consciousness correlate strictly with lesions
in the sufferer's brain.


Mark Peaty CDES


Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> On 2/18/07, *Mark Peaty* <
> <>> wrote:
> MP: Well at least I can say now that I have some inkling of what
> 'machine's theology' means. However, as far as I can see it is
> inherent in the nature of consciousness to reify something. I have
> not seen anywhere a refutation of my favoured understanding of
> consciousness which is that a brain is creating a representation
> of its world and a representation of itself and representations of
> the relationships between self and world. The 'world' in question
> is reified by the maintenance and updating of these
> representations, this is what the brain does, this is what it is
> FOR. Our contemplation of numbers and other mathematical objects
> or the abstract entities posited as particles and energy packets
> etc., by modern physics is experientially and logically second to
> the pre-linguistic/non-linguistic representation of self in the
> world, mediated by cell assemblies constituting basic qualia. [In
> passing; a quale must embody this triple aspect of representing
> something about the world, something about oneself and something
> significant about relationships *between* that piece of the world
> and that rendition of 'self'.]
> Would any device that can create a representation of the world, itself
> and the relationship between the world and itself be conscious? If you
> believe that it would, then you are thereby very close to
> computationalism, the thing you seem to be questioning.
> Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Mon Feb 19 2007 - 12:12:24 PST

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