Re: 3 possible views of "consciousness"

From: Jesse Mazer <>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 02:17:16 -0500 wrote:

>Despite its unpopularity, I think position 1 makes the most sense for
>those of us expecting to someday build robots that are also persons.
>Building robots is, after all, a third person kind of activity.

Sure, but so is making babies. Chalmers believes that there is a one-to-one
correspondence between computations and subjective experiences, and I tend
to agree--but that's quite different from what position #1 says.

>But position 1 does NOT preclude the reality of a first-person
>existence, it just makes that existence a purely subjective matter,
>but not only for third persons.

It also makes the belief that a system *has* subjective experience a
subjective matter...whereas I believe that the fact that I am conscious is
an "objective" truth, in the sense that it would be true regardless of what
anyone else believes.

>Once you attribute consciousness to an entity (perhaps persuaded by
>its Turing test performance), then you are interpreting its observable
>state in terms of feelings, beliefs and intentions. Among those
>feelings and beliefs, presumably, is the entity's feeling of and
>belief in its own consciousness, i.e. its awareness of its own

But I think it's possible a system that is attributed subjective experience
might not actually have it, at least not in the way people think. For
example, I doubt that a lookup table would have much subjective experience,
in the same way that a recording of a person probably doesn't have its own
subjective experience. Likewise, if I attribute feelings to a stuffed
animal, I'm probably wrong. But #1 says it's meaningless to talk about the
"truth" of these questions, just like it's meaningless to ask whether
Shakespeare is "really" a better author than Danielle Steele.

>So, this awareness exists not only as a subjective attribute in your
>mind, but (within that attribution) as a subjective attribute in the
>entity's own mind. Why shouldn't the entity's subjective
>self-perception count as real experience? It has at least as much
>Platonic existence as any of the proposed frameworks for universe
>existence on this list: more so, since the entity's consciousness can
>be explored in depth very naturally by conducting a long personal
>relationship with it.

But #1 doesn't just say that conducting a long personal relationship with a
system is a good test of consciousness (which I believe) says that
there's nothing to test, because attributing consciousness to a system is a
purely aesthetic decision. Even an omniscient God could not tell you the
"truth" of the matter, if #1 is correct.

Jesse Mazer
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Received on Sun Jan 28 2001 - 23:20:01 PST

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