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

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 15:47:19 +1000 (EST)


> 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.

Oh no you don't!! It matters. Bigtime...

Take away the necessary primitive: no 'qualititative novelty'
Take away the water molecules: No lake.
Take away the bricks, no building
Take away the atoms: no molecules
Take away the cells: no human
Take away the humans: no humanity
Take away the planets: no solar system
Take away the X: No emergent Y
Take away the QUALE: No qualia

Magical emergence is when but claim Y exists but you can't
identify an X. Such as:

Take away the X: No qualia

but claim qualia result from 'information complexity' or
'computation' or 'function' and you fail to say what X can be. Nobody can.

You can't use an object derived using the contents of
consciousness(observation) to explain why there are any contents of
consciousness(observation) at all. It is illogical. (see the wigner quote
below). I find the general failure to recognise this brute reality very

> So this means that in a computer abstraction.
>> d(KNOWLEDGE(t))
>> --------------- is already part of KNOWLEDGE(t)
>> dt

> No its not. dK/dt is generated by the interaction of the rules with the

No. No. No. There is the old assumption thing again.

How, exactly, are you assuming that the agent 'interacts' with the
environment? This is the world external to the agent, yes?. Do not say
"through sensory measurement", because that will not do. There are an
infinite number of universes that could give rise to the same sensory
measurements. We are elctromagnetic objects. Basic EM theory. Proven
mathematical theorems. The solutions are not unique for an isolated


There is _no interaction with the environment_ except for that provided by
the qualia as an 'as-if' proxy for the environment. The origins of an
ability to access the distal external world in support of such a proxy is
mysterious but moot. It can and does happen, and that ability must come
about because we live in the kind of universe that supports that
possibility. The mysteriousness of it is OUR problem.

> 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.

But then we're not talking about merely being 'highly effective'
in a target problem domain, are we? We are talking about proving
consciousness in a machine. I agree - evolutionary algoritms are great
things... they are just irrelevant to this discussion.

>> >> 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
>> 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

I am talking about the membrane and you are talking atoms so I guess we
missed somehow...anyway....The only 'potentiation' that really matters in
my model is that which looks like an 'action potential' longitudinally
traversing dendrite/soma/axon membrane as a whole.

Notwithstanding this....

The chemical potentiation at the atomic level is entirely an EM phenomenon
mediated by QM boundaries (virtual photons in support of the shell
structure, also EM). It is a sustained 'well/energy minimaum' in the EM
field structure....You think there is such a 'thing' as potential? There
is no such thing - there is something we describe as 'EM field'. Nothing
else. Within that metaphor is yet another even more specious metaphor:
Potential is an (as yet unrealised) propensity of the field at a
particular place to do work on a charge if it were put it there. You can
place that charge in it and get a number out of an electrophysiological
probe... and 'realise' the work (modify the fields) itself- but there's no
'thing' that 'is' the potential.

Not only that: The fields are HUGE > 10^11 volts/meter. Indeed the
entrapment of protons in the nucleus requires the strong nuclear force to
overcome truly stupendous repulsive fields. I know beause I am quite
literally doing tests in molecular dynamics simulations of the E-M field
at the single charge level. The fields are massive and change at
staggeringly huge rates, especially at the atomic level. However....Their
net level in the vicinity of 20Angstroms away falls off dramatically. But
this is not the vicinity of any 'chemical reaction'.

And again I say : there is nothing else there but charge and its fields.

When you put your hand on a table the reason it doesn't pass through it
even though table and hand are mostly space because electrons
literally meet and repulse electrons.

> between them. Furthermore, the chemical potential is independent on the
separation, unlike the electric field.

Nope. There is a "potential well" close in to the relvent atoms, created
on approach by the near-EM field interactions close in.....The field draws
the atoms together and the resulting field stablises the result (emitting
photons or creating other sources of kinetic energy as necessary). In
femtochemistry the exquisite detail of the interrelationships of the
fields determines the detail as they approach each other. The words
"chemical potential" is just a metaphor for the potential well in close to
the wonder it is independent of distance - the well is
in close! . There is no such 'thing' as 'chemical'. There is no such
'thing' as mechanical, including 'quantum mechanical'. There is just
something: ...where some of it bahaves like charge/fields with/without
mass and the rest of it behaves like space.

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

There are so many good reasons to hold them accountable ..... Read the
recent book by Jon Edwards...In any event - I hold the FIELD accountable.
The fact that it happens to be delivered by astrocytes/neuron membranes is
incidental. If you have to be skeptical about something, please be
skeptical about the right thing for a good reason!

In a critical argument about hypothesis viability it stacks up. I have
truckloads of empirical correlates consistent with it. Neurons and
astrocytes can have their own qualia. They can participate collaboratively
to construct more complex qualia. It's all self-similar/recursive. And, as
a result...I have a 'necessary primitive' in the electric field. No
membrane field = No qualia.

That the perfect field happens to be implemented in the membrane of
astrocytes and neurons is not relvant. An inorganically produced field
with the same spatiotemporal characteristics should be produce the same
effect (virtual bosons).

The fact that it may be difficult (at this stage) to see HOW this may
deliver qualia is not relevant: especially when the circumstances of the
claim are at an epistemological cul-de-sac that precisely predicts
a-priori that very difficulty....consider Eugene Wigner in "Are we
machines?" in 1960s...P96. Top right. In respect of scientific laws:

"The primitive facts in terms of which the laws are formulated are not the
positions of atoms, but the results of observations. It seems
inconsistent, therefore, to explain the state of mind of the observer, his
apperception of the result of an observation, in terms of
concepts, such as positions of atoms, which have to be explained,
then, in terms of the content of consciousness"

Wigner is too reserved...Instead of "It seems inconsistent..." I would say
"It's at best completely meaningless and at worst a grave mistake....".

Over to Quentin's post...


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Received on Sun Jun 17 2007 - 01:47:46 PDT

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