Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 
> 
> Brent meeker writes:
> 
> 
>>>>>>I could make a robot that, having suitable thermocouples, would quickly 
>>>>>>withdraw it's 
>>>>>>hand from a fire; but not be conscious of it.  Even if I provide the 
>>>>>>robot with 
>>>>>>"feelings", i.e. judgements about good/bad/pain/pleasure I'm not sure it 
>>>>>>would be 
>>>>>>conscious.  But if I provide it with "attention" and memory, so that it 
>>>>>>noted the 
>>>>>>painful event as important and necessary to remember because of it's 
>>>>>>strong negative 
>>>>>>affect; then I think it would be conscious.
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>It's interesting that people actually withdraw their hand from the fire 
>>>>>*before* they experience 
>>>>>the pain. The withdrawl is a reflex, presumably evolved in organisms with 
>>>>>the most primitive 
>>>>>central nervour systems, while the pain seems to be there as an 
>>>>>afterthought to teach us a 
>>>>>lesson so we won't do it again. Thus, from consideration of evolutionary 
>>>>>utility consciousness 
>>>>>does indeed seem to be a side-effect of memory and learning. 
>>>>
>>>>Even more curious, volitional action also occurs before one is aware of it. 
>>>>Are you 
>>>>familiar with the experiments of Benjamin Libet and Grey Walter?
>>>
>>>
>>>These experiments showed that in apparently voluntarily initiated motion, 
>>>motor cortex activity 
>>>actually preceded the subject's awareness of his intention by a substantial 
>>>fraction of a second. 
>>>In other words, we act first, then "decide" to act. These studies did not 
>>>examine pre-planned 
>>>action (presumably that would be far more technically difficult) but it is 
>>>easy to imagine the analogous 
>>>situation whereby the action is unconsciously "planned" before we become 
>>>aware of our decision. In 
>>>other words, free will is just a feeling which occurs after the fact. This 
>>>is consistent with the logical 
>>>impossibility of something that is neither random nor determined, which is 
>>>what I feel my free will to be.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>>>I also think that this is an argument against zombies. If it were possible 
>>>>>for an organism to 
>>>>>behave just like a conscious being, but actually be unconscious, then why 
>>>>>would consciousness 
>>>>>have evolved? 
>>>>
>>>>An interesting point - but hard to give any answer before pinning down what 
>>>>we mean 
>>>>by consciousness.  For example Bruno, Julian Jaynes, and Daniel Dennett 
>>>>have 
>>>>explanations; but they explain somewhat different consciousnesses, or at 
>>>>least 
>>>>different aspects.
>>>
>>>
>>>Consciousness is the hardest thing to explain but the easiest thing to 
>>>understand, if it's your own 
>>>consciousness at issue. I think we can go a long way discussing it assuming 
>>>that we do know what 
>>>we are talking about even though we can't explain it. The question I ask is, 
>>>why did people evolve 
>>>with this consciousness thing, whatever it is? The answer must be, I think, 
>>>that it is a necessary 
>>>side-effect of the sort of neural complexity that underpins our behaviour. 
>>>If it were not, and it 
>>>were possible that beings could behave exactly like humans and not be 
>>>conscious, then it would 
>>>have been wasteful of nature to have provided us with consciousness. 
>>
>>This is not necessarily so.  First, evolution is constrained by what goes 
>>before. 
>>Its engineering solutions often seem rube-goldberg, e.g. backward retina in 
>>mammals. 
> 
> 
> Sure, but vision itself would not have evolved unnecessarily.
> 
> 
>>  Second, there is selection against some evolved feature only to the extent 
>> it has a 
>>(net) cost.  For example, Jaynes explanation of consciousness conforms to 
>>these two 
>>criteria.  I think that any species that evolves intelligence comparable to 
>>ours will 
>>be conscious for reasons somewhat like Jaynes theory.  They will be social 
>>and this 
>>combined with intelligence will make language a good evolutionary move.  Once 
>>they 
>>have language, remembering what has happened, in order to communicate and 
>>plan, in 
>>symbolic terms will be a easy and natural evolvement.  Whether that leads to 
>>hearing 
>>your own narrative in your head, as Jaynes supposes, is questionable; but it 
>>would be 
>>consistent with evolution. It takes advantage of existing structure and 
>>functions to 
>>realize a useful new function.
> 
> 
> Agreed. So consciousness is either there for a reason or it's a necessary 
> side-effect of the sort 
> of brains we have and the way we have evolved. It's still theoretically 
> possible that if the latter 
> is the case, we might have been unconscious if we had evolved completely 
> different kinds of 
> brains, but similar behaviour - although I think it unlikely.
>  
> 
>>>This does not necessarily 
>>>mean that computers can be conscious: maybe if we had evolved with 
>>>electronic circuits in our 
>>>heads rather than neurons consciousness would not have been a necessary 
>>>side-effect. 
>>
>>But my point is that this may come down to what we would mean by a computer 
>>being 
>>conscious.  Bruno has an answer in terms of what the computer can prove.  
>>Jaynes (and 
>>probably John McCarthy) would say a computer is conscious if it creates a 
>>narrative 
>>of its experience which it can access as memory.
> 
> 
> Maybe this is a copout, but I just don't think it is even logically possible 
> to explain what consciousness 
> *is* unless you have it. 

Not being *logically* possible means entailing a contradiction - I doubt that.  
But 
anyway you do have it and you think I do because of the way we interact.  So if 
you 
interacted the same way with a computer and you further found out that the 
computer 
was a neural network that had learned through interaction with people over a 
period 
of years, you'd probably infer that the computer was conscious - at least you 
wouldn't be sure it wasn't.

>It's like the problem of explaining vision to a blind man: he might be the 
>world's 
> greatest scientific expert on it but still have zero idea of what it is like 
> to see - and that's even though 
> he shares most of the rest of his cognitive structure with other humans, and 
> can understand analogies 
> using other sensations. Knowing what sort of program a conscious computer 
> would have to run to be 
> conscious, what the purpose of consciousness is, and so on, does not help me 
> to understand what the 
> computer would be experiencing, except by analogy with what I myself 
> experience. 

But that's true of everything.  Suppose we knew a lot more about brains and we 
created an intelligent computer using brain-like functional architecture and it 
acted 
like a conscious human being, then I'd say we understood its consciousness 
better 
than we understand quantum field theory or global economics.

Brent Meeker

> 
> Stathis Papaioannou


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