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

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 04:26:14 +1000

On Fri, Jun 22, 2007 at 12:22:31AM -0000, David Nyman wrote:
> On Jun 21, 1:45 pm, Russell Standish <> wrote:
> > You assume way too much about my motives here. I have only been trying to
> > bash some meaning out of the all too flaccid prose that's being flung
> > about at the moment. I will often employ counterexamples simply to
> > illustrate points of poor terminology, or sloppy thinking. Its a
> > useful exercise, not a personal attack on beliefs.
> Russell, If you believe that a particular thought is poorly expressed
> or sloppy, I would appreciate any help you might offer in making it
> more precise, rather than 'bashing' it.

It seems you've miscontrued my "bashing", sorry about that. I was,
perhaps somewhat colourfully, meaning "extracting some meaning". Since
your prose (and often Colin's for that matter) often sounds like
gibberish to me, I have to work at it, rather like bashing a lump of
metal with a hammer. Sometimes I succeed, but other times I just have
to give up.

I most certainly didn't mean "unwarranted critising of", or "flaming". I am
interested in learning, and I don't immediately assume that you (or
anyone else for that matter) have nothing interesting to say.

> Sometimes conversations on
> the list feel more like talking past one another, and this in general
> isn't 'a useful exercise'. My comment to Brent was motivated by a
> perception that you'd been countering my 1-personal terminology with 3-
> person formalisms.

Terminology is terminology, it doesn't have a point of view. Terms
should have accepted meaning, unless we agree on a different meaning
for the purposes of discussion.

> Consequently, as such, they didn't strike me as
> equivalent, or as genuine 'counterexamples': this surprised me, in

Which counterexamples are you talking about?

1) Biological evolution as a counterexample to Colin's assertion about
doing science implies consciousness. This started this thread.

2) Oxygen and hydrogen atoms as counterexamples of a chemical
   potential that is not an electric field

3) Was there something else? I can't quite recall now.

> view of some of the other ideas you've expressed. So I may well have
> been too swift to assign certain motives to you, not having detected
> any pedagogically-motivated intent to caricature, and I would welcome
> your more specific clarification and correction.
> I should say at this point that I too find the 'terminology' task very
> trying, as virtual any existing vocabulary comes freighted with pre-
> existing implications of the sort you have been exploiting in your
> ripostes, but which I didn't intend. I would welcome any superior
> alternatives you might suggest. Trying or not, I'm not quite ready to
> give up the attempt to clarify these ideas. If you think the exercise
> misconceived or poorly executed, it's of course up to you to choose to
> 'bash', satirise, or ignore it, but I would particularly welcome open-
> ended questions.

I don't recall satirising anything recently. It is true that I usually
ignore comments that don't make sense after a couple of minutes of
staring at the phrase, unless really prodded like you did in your
recent post on attributing sensing to arbitrary interactions.

A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052         
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Received on Fri Jun 22 2007 - 00:55:46 PDT

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