RE: What do you lose if you simply accept...

From: Lee Corbin <>
Date: Sat, 21 May 2005 12:02:20 -0700

Stathis writes

> > > I did not
> > > mean that there is no explanation possible for consciousness.
> > > It is likely that in the course of time the neuronal
> > > mechanisms behind the phenomenon will be worked out and it
> > > will be possible to build intelligent, conscious machines.
> > > Imagine that advanced aliens have already achieved this
> > > through surreptitious study of humans over a number of
> > > decades. Their models of human brain function are so good
> > > that by running an emulation of one or more humans and their
> > > environment they can predict their behaviour better than the
> > > humans can themselves.

Well put.

An interesting point to add is that since human behavior
is almost surely not compressible, the *only* way that they
can learn what a human is going to do is to, in effect, run
one (the mocked up one in their lab). As you say, they run
an *emulation*.

But this could mean that they had *no* special insight into
consciousness, because by adjusting the teleporter, Scotty
can "find out" things too just by making a physical copy of
the Captain, and, for example, finding out what he'd say
about giving the engineers a raise.

But you have described Martian science very well. Here is
what I think that they are capable of that *is* important:
they could tell (or announce) with very high accuracy
whether a species was conscious, and to what extent, in
its natural environment, and do all this just from the
creature's DNA (and perhaps a little info on the inter-
uterine environment).

Here is an analogy: in a cold hut in the Scottish highlands
in 1440, two bright, but shivering, people are debating the
nature of warmth. Says one: "Brrr. Some day the scientists
will be so advanced that the can objectively measure hotness,
and you and I will more closely agree." And he turned out
to be right, as we know now.

> > > Now, I think you will agree (although
> > > Jonathan Colvin may not) that despite this excellent
> > > understanding of the processes giving rise to human conscious
> > > experience, the aliens may still have absolutely no idea what
> > > the experience is actually like.

Yes, but what does that mean? What does it mean for, say,
you to know what it's like when I play 1. e4 in a game of
chess? I can tell you that it's probably nothing at all
like when *you* play 1. e4. But it's strickly a function of
how similar our chess careers have been, whether we both
have the same opinion of the Alapin counter to the Sicilian,
and so forth. So in effect, it really comes down to how
much you are already me when you play 1. e4.

Somebody here said it much better than I: they said that
you have to almost be someone to in order to know what
it's like to be them.

Jonathan then says

> > No, I'd agree that they have no idea what the experience is like. But this
> > is no more remarkable than the fact that allthough we may have an excellent
> > understanding of photons, we can not travel at the speed of light, or that
> > although we may have an excellent understanding of trees, yet we can not
> > photosynthesize. Neither of these "problems" seem particularly hard.

I totally agree.

> We are thus at an impasse, agreeing on all the facts but differing in our
> appraisal of the facts.

Maybe. But since you (Stathis) write so well, could you summarize
what your adversaries seem to be saying and what you say? I'm less
sure (than you) that no progress can be made.

Received on Sat May 21 2005 - 15:06:38 PDT

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