Re: Searles' Fundamental Error

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 09:21:43 -0800

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> On 2/20/07, *Mark Peaty* <
> <>> wrote:
> 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.]
> 1. If it behaved as if it were conscious *and* it did this using the
> same sort of hardware as I am using (i.e. a human brain) then I would
> agree that almost certainly it is conscious. If the hardware were on a
> different substrate but a direct analogue of a human brain and the
> result was a functionally equivalent machine then I would be almost as
> confident, but if the configuration were completely different I would
> not be confident that it was conscious and I would bet that at least it
> was differently conscious. As for scientific research, I never managed
> to understand why Colin thought this was more than just a version of the
> Turing test.
> 2. I don't consider biological machines to be fundamentally different to
> other machines.
> 3. Sure, different entities with (at least) functionally different
> brains will be differently conscious. But I like to use "conscious in
> the way I am" in order to avoid having to explain or define
> consciousness in general, or my consciousness in particular. I can
> meaningfully talk about "seeing red" to a blind person who has no idea
> what the experience is like: What wavelengths of light lead me to see
> red? Can I still see red if my eyes are closed or my optic nerve
> severed? What if I have a stroke in the visual cortex? What if certain
> parts of my cortex are electrically stimulated? That is, I can go a very
> long way with the definition "that experience which i have when a red
> coloured object enters my visual field".
> 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 achievable.
> Huh? I think it would be a relatively trivial matter to emulate MRI and
> EEG data, certainly compared to emulating behaviour as evidenced by
> muscle activity (complex, intelligent behaviour such as doing science or
> writing novels is after all just muscle activity, which is just chemical
> reactions in the muscles triggered by chemical reactions in the brain).
> 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.
> A human with an intact brain behaving like an awake human could not
> really be a zombie unless you believe in magic. However, it is possible
> to conceive of intelligently-behaving beings who do not have an internal
> life because they lack the right sort of brains. I am not suggesting
> that this is the case and there are reasons to think it is unlikely to
> be the case, but it is not ruled out by any empirical observation.
> Stathis Papaioannou

The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any conceivable observation that could rule it out. So by Popper's rule it is a not a scientific proposition but rather a metaphysical one. This is another way of saying that there is no agreed upon way of assigning a truth or probability value to it.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Tue Feb 20 2007 - 14:35:55 PST

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