Brent Meeker writes (quoting SP):

> >>Consider a computer which is doing something (whether it is dreaming or 
> >>musing or just running is the point in question).  If there is no 
> >>interaction between what it's running and the rest of the world I'd say 
> >>it's not conscious.  It doesn't necessarily need an external observer 
> >>though.  To invoke an external observer would require that we already 
> >>knew how to distinguish an observer from a non-observer.  This just 
> >>pushes the problem away a step.  One could as well claim that the walls 
> >>of the room which are struck by the photons from the screen constitute 
> >>an observer - under a suitable mapping of wall states.  The computer 
> >>could, like a Mars rover, act directly on the rest of the world.
> > 
> > 
> > The idea that we can only be conscious when interacting with the 
> > environment 
> > is certainly worth considering. After all, consciousness evolved in order 
> > to help 
> > the organism deal with its environment, and it may be wrong to just assume  
> > without further evidence that consciousness continues if all interaction 
> > with the 
> > environment ceases. Maybe even those activities which at first glance seem 
> > to 
> > involve consciousness in the absence of environmental interaction actually 
> > rely 
> > on a trickle of sensory input: for example, maybe dreaming is dependent on 
> > proprioceptive feedback from eye movements, which is why we only dream 
> > during REM sleep, and maybe general anaesthetics actually work by 
> > eliminating 
> > all sensory input rather than by a direct effect on the cortex. But even if 
> > all this 
> > is true, we could still imagine stimulating a brain which has all its 
> > sensory inputs 
> > removed so that the pattern of neural activity is exactly the same as it 
> > would 
> > have been had it arisen in the usual way. Would you say that the 
> > artificially 
> > stimulated brain is not conscious, even though everything up to and 
> > including 
> > the peripheral nerves is physically identical to and goes through the same 
> > physical processes as the normal brain?
> No.  I already noted that we can't insist that interaction with the 
> environment is continuous. Maybe "potential interaction" would be 
> appropriate.  But I note that even in your example you contemplate 
> "stimulating" the brain.  I'm just trying to take what I consider an 
> operational defintion and abstract it to the kind of 
> mathematical/philosophical definition that can be applied to questions 
> about rocks thinking.

The brain-with-wires-attached cannot interact with the environment, because 
all its sense organs have been removed and the stimulation is just coming from 
a recording. Instead of the wires + recording we could say that there is a 
group of neurons with spontaneous activity that stimulates the rest of the 
just as if it were receiving input from the environment. Such a brain would 
no ability to interact with the environment, unless the effort were made to 
figure out its internal code and then manufacture sense organs for it - but I 
think that would be stretching the definition of "potential interaction". In 
case, I don't see how "potential interaction" could make a difference. If you 
two brains sitting in the dark, identical in anatomy and electrical activity 
that one has its optic nerves cut, will one brain be conscious and the other 

Stathis Papaioannou
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