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

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 12:47:58 +1000 (EST)


>> I don't think we need a new word....I'll stick to the far less
>> term 'organisational complexity', I think. the word creativity is so
loaded that its use in general discourse is bound to be prone to
misconstrual, especially in any discussion which purports to be
>> the relationship between 'organisational complexity' and consciousness.

> What sort of misconstruals do you mean? I'm interested...
> 'organisational complexity' does not capture the concept I'm after.

1) Those associated with religious 'creation' myths - the creativity
ascribed to an omniscient/omnipotent entity.
2) The creativity ascribed to the act of procreation.
3) The pseudo-magical aspects of human creativity (the scientific ah-ha
moment and the artistic gestalt moment).
and pehaps...
4) Belief in 'magical emergence' .... qualitative novelty of a kind
utterly unrelated to the componentry.

These are all slippery slopes leading from the usage of the word
'creativity' which could unexpectedly undermine the specificity of a
technical discourse aimed at a wider (multi-disciplinary) audience.

Whatever word you dream up... let me know!

>> The question-begging loop at this epistemic boundary is a minefield.
[[engage tiptoe mode]]
>> I would say:
>> (1) The evolutionary algorithms are not 'doing science' on the natural
world. They are doing science on abstract entities whose relationship with
>> the natural world is only in the mind(consciousness) of their grounder
>> the human programmer. The science done by the artefact can be the
perfectly good science of abstractions, but simply wrong or irrelevant
insofar as it bears any ability to prescribe or verify
>> about the natural world (about which it has no awareness whatever). The
usefulness of the outcome (patents) took human involvement. The
>> (software) doesn't even know it's in a universe, let alone that it
participated in an invention process.

> This objection is easily countered in theory. Hook up your
> evolutionary algorithm to a chemsitry workbench, and let it go with real
chemicals. Practically, its a bit more difficult of course, most likely
leading to the lab being destroyed in some explosion.

Lots o'fun! But it might actually create its own undoing in the words
'evolutionary algorithm'. The self-modification strategy was preprogrammed
by a human, along with the initial values. Then there is the matter of
interpresting measurements of the output of the chemistry set...

The system (a) automatically prescibes certain trajectories and (b)
assumes that the theroem space natural world are the same space and
equivalently accessed. The assumption is that hooking up a chemistry set
replicates the 'wild-type' theorem prover that is the natural world. If
you could do that then you already know everything there is to know (about
the natural world) and there'd be no need do it in the first place. This
is the all-time ultimate question-begger...

> Theoretical scientists, do not have laboratories to interface to,
though, only online repositories of datasets and papers. A theoretical
algorithmic scientist is a more likely proposition.

A belief that an algorithmic scientist is doing valid science on the
natural world (independent of any human) is problematic in that it assumes
that human cortical qualia play no part in the scientific process in the
face of easily available evidence to the contrary, and then doubly assumes
that the algorithmic scientist (with a novelty exploration -theorem
proving strategy-programmed by a human) somehow naturally replicates the
neglected functionality (role of cortical qualia).

>> (2) "Is this evolutionary algorithm conscious then?".
>> In the sense that we are conscious of the natural world around us? Most
definitely no. Nowhere in the computer are any processes that include all
>> aspects of the physics of human cortical matter.
> ...
>> Based on this, of the 2 following positions, which is less vulnerable
>> critical attack?
>> A) Information processing (function) begets consciousness, regardless
>> the behaviour of the matter doing the information processing (form).
Computers process information. Therefore I believe the computer is conscious.
>> B) Human cortical qualia are a necessary condition for the scientific
behaviour and unless the complete suite of the physics involved in that
process is included in the computer, the computer is not conscious. Which
form of question-begging gets the most solid points as science? (B)
>> of course. (B) is science and has an empirical future. Belief (A) is
religion, not science.
>> Bit of a no-brainer, eh?

> I think you're showing clear signs of carbon-lifeform-ism here. Whilst I
can say fairly clearly that I believe my fellow humans are
> conscious, and that I beleive John Koza's evolutionary programs
> aren't, I do not have a clear-cut operational test of
> consciousness. Its like the test for pornography - we know it when we
see it.

This is touching the flame - right there - where i claim this is not the
case. Everything we are is mediated through cortical qualia. In the one
and only case - the act of doing science - this argument is not valid.
Science evidences qualia (it does not say what they are, merely that they

This is the cultural blind we inhabit. Cortical qualia are all and ONLY
evidence of _everything_ and is subjectively delivered. We cannot have it
both ways. We cannot live and do science using it for all evidence and
then either (a) deny it or (b) claim it present in another person/artifact
with the same ability as we declare something pornography (an arbitrary
belief). Let the object itself demonstrate science. be scientific about
it. This is the only place any consistency can be invoked and the major
source of inconsistency in our own behaviour as scientists.

Like I said earlier: everything is evidence of something and scientists
are no exception - they are evidence of something and that something is
cortical qualia.

The scientific act and the existence of scientists is the slim crack in
the cultural blind through which we can end the chronic failure.

>It is therefore not at all clear to me that some n-th
> improvement on an evolutionary algorithm won't be considered conscious
at some time in the future. It is not at all clear which aspects of human
cortical systems are required for consciousness.

You are not alone. This is an epidemic.

My scientific claim is that the electromagnetic field structure literally
the third person view of qualia. This is not new. What is new is
understanding the kind of universe we inhabit in which that is necessarily
the case. It's right there, in the cells. Just ask the right question of
them. There's nothing else there but space (mostly), charge and mass - all
things delineated and described by consciousness as how they appear to it
- and all such descriptions are logically necessarily impotent in
prescribing why that very consciousness exists at all.

Wigner got this in 1960something.... time to catch up.

gotta go....

colin hales

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at
Received on Wed Jun 13 2007 - 22:48:16 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:14 PST