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

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2007 17:08:03 +1000

On Thu, Jun 21, 2007 at 12:45:43PM +1000, Colin Hales wrote:
> >
> > OK, so by necessary primitive, you mean the syntactic or microscopic
> > layer. But take this away, and you no longer have emergence. See
> > endless discussions on emergence - my paper, or Jochen Fromm's book for
> > instance. Does this mean "magical emergence" is oxymoronic?
> I do not think I mean what you suggest. To make it almost tediously
> Necessary in that if you take it away the 'emergent' is gone.PRIMITIVE
> ORGANISATIONAL LAYER = one of the layers of the hierarchy of the natural
> world (from strings to atoms to cells and beyond): real observable
> -on-the-benchtop-in-the-lab - layers.....

Still sounds like the syntactic layer to me.

> Not some arm waving "syntactic"
> or "information" or "complexity" or "Computaton" or "function_atom" or
> "representon". Magical emergence is real, specious and exactly what I have
> said all along:

real and specious?

> You claim consciousness arises as a result of ["syntactic" or
> "information" or "complexity" or "Computational" or "function_atom"] =
> necessary primitive, but it has no scientifically verifiable correlation
> with any real natural world phenomenon that you can stand next to and have
> your picture taken.

The only form of consciousness known to us is emergent relative to a
syntactic of neurons, which you most certainly can take pictures
of. I'm not sure what your point is here.

> >
> >
> >> 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
> >> exasperating.
> >>
> >
> > People used to think that about life. How can you construct (eg an
> > animal) without having a complete discription of that animal. So how
> > can an animal self-reproduce without having a complete description of
> > itself. But this then leads to an infinite regress.
> >
> > The solution to this conundrum was found in the early 20th century -
> > first with such theoretical constructs as combinators and lambda
> > calculus, then later the actual genetic machinery of life. If it is
> > possible in the case of self-reproduction, the it will also likely to
> > be possible in the case of self-awareness and consciousness. Stating
> > this to illogical doesn't help. That's what people from the time of
> > Descartes thought about self-reproduction.
> >
> >> COLIN
> >> <snip>
> >>> 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
> >> environment.
> >>
> >> 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.
> >
> > All true, but how does that differ in the case of humans?
> The extreme uniqueness of the circumstance alone....We ARE the thing we
> describe. We are more entitled to any such claims .....notwithstanding
> that...

What are you talking about here? Self-awareness? We started off talking
about whether machines doing science was evidence that they're conscious.

> >
> > You've lost me completely here.
> Here you are trying to say that an explanation of consciousness lies "in
> that direction" (magical emergence flavour X"), ........when you appear to

You're the one introducing the term magical emergence, for which I've
not obtained an adequate definitions from you.


> At the same time we can plausibly and defensibly justify the claim that
> whatever the universe is really made of , QUALIA are made of it too, and
> that the qualia process and the rest of the process (that appear like
> atoms etc in the qualia....are all of the same KIND or CLASS of natural
> phenomenon...a perfectly natural phenomenon innate to whatever it is that
> it is actually made of.
> That is what I mean by "we must live in the kind of universe....." and I
> mean 'must' in the sense of formal necessitation of the most stringent
> kind.
> cheers,
> colin

I'm still confused about what you're trying to say. Are you saying our
qualia are made up of electrons and quarks, or if not them, then
whatever they're made of (strings perhaps?)

How could you imagine the colour green being made up of this stuff, or
the wetness of water?

A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052         
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Received on Thu Jun 21 2007 - 03:08:31 PDT

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