Lee Corbin wrote:

A friend sends me this link:


which will perhaps be of interest to a number of people here.

But the familiar first sentence just sends me into orbit:

   The hard problem of consciousness, according to
   David Chalmers, is explaining why and how
   experience is generated by certain particular
   configurations of physical stuff.

Just how the devil do you all you Chalmerites expect
that the world could have been any different in this
regard than it is???

Do you imagine that it's possible that we could go to
another star, and encounter beings who discoursed with
us about every single other thing, yet denied that they
had consciousness, and professed that they had no idea
what we were talking about? Yes or No! I want an answer.
Do you think that this *could* happen someday?

The list is very active recently and as I have to work, eat etc. I haven't had time to properly digest (let alone reply to) all the excellent posts. The above question is a version of the zombie problem, and there are two slightly different answers depending on whether you are talking about human zombies or zombies from another planet. Human zombies are easy: they're not really zombies. If they behave like humans, they almost certainly have the same subjective experiences as humans. If this were not necessarily true, then the added complication of consciousness would never have evolved. Nature cares only about behaviour, and has no way of knowing about subjective experience. This almost certainly means that consciousness is a necessary side-effect of the type of complexity needed to create human type behaviour. From memory, Chalmers suggests that this is possibly true, but still maintains that it is *logically* possible for human zombies to exist, supporting his thesis that it is not possible to derive consciousness from brain states (the "hard problem"). Without getting into a discussion of what "logically possible" means, I would still say that even if it could somehow be shown that appropriate brain states necessarily lead to conscious states, which I suspect is the case, it would still not be clear how this comes about, and it would still not be clear what this is like unless you experience the brain/conscious state yourself, or something like it. You could dismiss this as unimportant, but I think it makes 1st person experience fundamentally different from everything else in the universe.

As for aliens, I don't see how we could possibly assume that organisms who did not even evolve on our planet have anything in common with us mentally. They may be more fundamentally alien and different to us than bats or lobsters are, and it may be completely impossible to empathise with them, even if we could somehow tap into their minds.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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