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

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 11:33:34 +1000

On Sun, Jun 17, 2007 at 10:02:28AM +1000, Colin Hales wrote:
> Hi,
> I am going to have to be a bit targetted in my responses.... I am a TAD
> whelmed at the moment.....
> >> 4) Belief in 'magical emergence' .... qualitative novelty of a kind
> utterly unrelated to the componentry.
> > The latter clause refers to "emergence" (without the "magical"
> > qualifier), and it is impossible IMHO to have creativity without
> emergence.
> The distinction between 'magical emergence' and 'emergence' is quite
> obviously intended by me. A lake is not apparent in the chemical formula
> for water. I would defy anyone to quote any example of real-world
> 'emergence' that does not ultimately rely on a necessary primitive.
> 'Magical emergence' is when you claim 'qualitative novelty' without having
> any idea (you can't point at it) of the necessary primitive, or by
> defining an arbitrary one that is actually a notional construct (such as
> 'information'), rather than anything real.

All I can say is that I don't understand your distinction. You have
introduced a new term "necessary primitive" - what on earth is that?

But I'll let this pass, it probably isn't important.

> Ok. Here's where we find the big assumption. Feedback? HOW? who's
> rules? Your rules. This is the real circularity which underpins
> computationalism. It's the circularity that my real physical qualia model
> cuts and kills. Mathematically:
> * You have knowledge KNOWLEDGE(t) of 'out there'
> * You want more knowledge of 'out there'
> * KNOWLEDGE(t+1) is more than KNOWLEDGE(t)
> * in computationalism who defines the necessary route to this?...
> --------------- = something you know = YOU DO.
> dt
> So this means that in a computer abstraction.
> --------------- is already part of KNOWLEDGE(t)
> dt

No its not. dK/dt is generated by the interaction of the rules with
the environment. Evolutionary algorithms are highly effective
information pumps, pumping information from the environment into the
genome, or whatever representation you're using to store the solutions.

> >> My scientific claim is that the electromagnetic field structure
> literally the third person view of qualia.
> > Eh? Electromagnetic field of what? The brain? If so, do you think that
> chemical potentiation plays no role at all in qualia?
> Chemical potentiation IS electric field.

Bollocks. A hydrogen molecule and an oxygen atom held 1m apart have
chemical potential, but there is precious little electric field
between them. Furthermore, the chemical potential is independent on
the separation, unlike the electric field.

> There's no such thing as
> 'mechanical' there's no such thing as 'chemical'. These are all metaphors
> in certain contexts for what is and charge (yes...and mass
> associated with certain charge carriers). Where did you get this weird
> idea that a metaphor can make qualia?

Why do you think space and charge are not metaphors also? I would not
be so sure on this matter.

> The electric field across the membrane of cells (astrocytes and neurons)
> entire structure! It does not have to go anywhere. It just has to 'be'.
> You 'be' it to get what it delivers. Less than 50% of the signalling in
> the brain is synaptic, anyway! The dominant cortical process is actually
> an astrocyte syncytium. (look it up!). I would be very silly to ignore the
> single biggest, most dominant process of the brain that is so far
> completely correlated in every way with favour of any other
> cause.

You're obviously suggesting single neurons have qualia. Forgive me for
being a little sceptical of this suggestion...

A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052         
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Received on Sat Jun 16 2007 - 21:33:41 PDT

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