Re: How would a computer know if it were conscious?

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 10:50:16 +1000 (EST)

Hi Stathis,

> The bogus logic I detect in posts around this area...
> 'Humans are complex and are conscious'
> 'Humans were made by a complex biosphere'
> therefore
> 'The biosphere is conscious'
That conclusion is spurious, but it is the case that non-conscious
evolutionary processes can give rise to very elaborate "technology",
namely life, which goes against your theory that only consciousness can
produce new technology.

This point is poised on the cliff edge of loaded word meanings and their
use with the words 'sufficient' and 'necessary'. By technology I mean
novel artifacts resulting from the trajectory of causality including human
scientists. By that definition 'life', in the sense you infer, is not
technology. The resulting logical loop can be thus avoided. There is a
biosphere that arose naturally. It includes complexity of sufficient depth
to have created observers within it. Those observers can produce
technology. Douglas Adams (bless him) had the digital watch as a valid
product of evolution - and I agree with him - it's just that humans are
necessarily involved in its causal ancestry.

> That assumes that complexity itself (organisation of information) is the
> origin of consciousness in some unspecified, unjustified way. This
> position is completely unable to make any empirical predictions
> about the
> nature of human conscousness (eg why your cortex generates qualia
> and your
> spinal chord doesn't - a physiologically proven fact).

> Well, why does your eye generate visual qualia and not your big toe?
It's because the big toe lacks the necessary machinery.

I am afraid you have your physiology mixed up. The eye does NOT generate
visual qualia. Your visual cortex generates it based on measurements in
the eye. The qualia are manufactured and simultaneously projected to
appear to come from the eye (actually somewhere medial to them). It's how
you have 90degrees++ peripheral vison. The same visual qualia can be
generated without an eye (hallucination/dream). Some blind (no functioning
retina) people have a visual field for numbers. Other cross-modal mixups
can occur in synesthesia (you can hear colours, taste words). You can have
a "phantom big toe" without having any big toe at all....just because the
cortex is still there making the qualia. If you swapped the sensory nerves
in two fingers the motor cortex would drive finger A and it would feel
like finger B moved and you would see finger A move. The sensation is in
your head, not the periphery. It's merely projected at the periphery.


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Received on Wed Jun 13 2007 - 20:50:46 PDT

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