I am using terms like "information" loosely when discussing subjective experience precisely because I cannot think of a way to formalise it. Perhaps its defining characteristic is that it cannot be formalised. One can imagine that if we made contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, however alien it is, we could eventually exchange information about the natural sciences, mathematics, history, anything "objective". It would effectively involve finding an algorithm to convert from one formal system to another, or one natural language to another. But although the aliens may be able to explain how their physiology has evolved so that gamma rays which are an odd multiple of a certain wavelength cause them to feel a pleasant sensation while even multiple rays cause them to feel a completely different, unpleasant sensation, we as humans would have absolutely no idea what these sensations are like to experience.

So, in addition to the empirical data, there is this extra bit of information, neither contained in the data nor able to be derived from it using the laws of physics: what it actually feels like to be the one experiencing the subjective sensation. If someone can think of a better way to describe it than "extra bit of information" or can come up with a way to formalise it, I would be happy to hear about it.

I suppose there will still be some who insist that if you know all about the physiology etc. behind the alien response to gamma rays, then you know all there is to know. I think this response is analogous to the "shut up and calculate" attitude to the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Stathis Papaioannou

From: "Ben Goertzel" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: "Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>, <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: RE: More on qualia of consciousness and occam's razor
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2004 11:34:22 -0500

> ; you might even be able to "read" the brain, scanning for neuronal
> activity and deducing correctly that the subject sees a red
> flash. However,
> it is impossible to know what it feels like to see a red flash unless you
> have the actual experience yourself.
> So I maintain that there is this extra bit of information -subjective
> experience or qualia - that you do not automatically have even if
> you know
> everything about the brain to an arbitrary level of precision.

In what sense is a quale "information"?

formalizing this might help me to understand your hypothesis better


Hot chart ringtones and polyphonics. Go to http://ninemsn.com.au/mobilemania/default.asp

Reply via email to