Brent Meeker:
> Colin Hales wrote:
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> > <snip>
> >
> >>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. 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.
> >>
> >>Stathis Papaioannou
> >>
> >
> >
> > Please consider the plight of the zombie scientist with a huge set of
> > sensory feeds and similar set of effectors. All carry similar signal
> > encoding and all, in themselves, bestow no experiential qualities on the
> > zombie.
> >
> > Add a capacity to detect regularity in the sensory feeds.
> > Add a scientific goal-seeking behaviour.
> >
> > Note that this zombie...
> > a) has the internal life of a dreamless sleep
> > b) has no concept or percept of body or periphery
> > c) has no concept that it is embedded in a universe.
> >
> > I put it to you that science (the extraction of regularity) is the
> science
> > of zombie sensory fields, not the science of the natural world outside
> the
> > zombie scientist. No amount of creativity (except maybe random choices)
> > would ever lead to any abstraction of the outside world that gave it the
> > ability to handle novelty in the natural world outside the zombie
> scientist.
> >
> > No matter how sophisticated the sensory feeds and any guesswork as to a
> > model (abstraction) of the universe, the zombie would eventually find
> > novelty invisible because the sensory feeds fail to depict the novelty
> .ie.
> > same sensory feeds for different behaviour of the natural world.
> >
> > Technology built by a zombie scientist would replicate zombie sensory
> feeds,
> > not deliver an independently operating novel chunk of hardware with a
> > defined function(if the idea of function even has meaning in this
> instance).
> >
> > The purpose of consciousness is, IMO, to endow the cognitive agent with
> at
> > least a repeatable (not accurate!) simile of the universe outside the
> > cognitive agent so that novelty can be handled. Only then can the zombie
> > scientist detect arbitrary levels of novelty and do open ended science
> (or
> > survive in the wild world of novel environmental circumstance).

> Almost all organisms have become extinct.  Handling *arbitrary* levels of
> novelty is probably too much to ask of any species; and it's certainly
> more than is necessary to survive for millenia.

I am talking purely about scientific behaviour, not general behaviour. A
creature with limited learning capacity and phenomenal scenes could quite
happily live in an ecological niche until the niche changed. I am not asking
any creature other than a scientist to be able to appreciate arbitrary
levels of novelty.

> >
> > In the absence of the functionality of phenomenal consciousness and with
> > finite sensory feeds you cannot construct any world-model (abstraction)
> in
> > the form of an innate (a-priori) belief system that will deliver an
> endless
> > ability to discriminate novelty. In a very Godellian way eventually a
> limit
> > would be reach where the abstracted model could not make any prediction
> that
> > can be detected.
> So that's how we got string theory!
> >The zombie is, in a very real way, faced with 'truths' that
> > exist but can't be accessed/perceived. As such its behaviour will be
> > fundamentally fragile in the face of novelty (just like all computer
> > programs are).

> How do you know we are so robust.  Planck said, "A new idea prevails, not
> by the
> conversion of adherents, but by the retirement and demise of opponents."
> In other
> words only the young have the flexibility to adopt new ideas.  Ironically
> Planck
> never really believed quantum mechanics was more than a calculational
> trick.

The robustness is probably in that science is actually, at the level of
critical argument (like this, now), a super-organism.

In retrospect I think QM will be regarded as a side effect of the desperate
attempt to mathematically abtract appearances rather then deal with the
structure that is behaving quantum-mechanically. After the event they'll all
be going..."what were we thinking!".... it won't be wrong... just not useful
in the sense that any of its considerations are not about underlying

> > -----------------------------------
> > Just to make the zombie a little more real... consider the industrial
> > control system computer. I have designed, installed hundreds and wired
> up
> > tens (hundreds?) of thousands of sensors and an unthinkable number of
> > kilometers of cables. (NEVER again!) In all cases I put it to you that
> the
> > phenomenal content of sensory connections may, at best, be characterised
> as
> > whatever it is like to have electrons crash through wires, for that is
> what
> > is actually going on. As far as the internal life of the CPU is
> concerned...
> > whatever it is like to be an electrically noisy hot rock, regardless of
> the
> > program....although the character of the noise may alter with different
> > programs!

> That's like say whatever it is like to be you, it is at best some waves of
> chemical
> potential.  You don't *know* that the control system is not conscious -
> unless you
> know what structure or function makes a system conscious.

There is nothing there except wires and electrically noisy hot rocks,
plastic and other materials = <stuff>. Whatever its consciousness is... it
is the consciousness of the <stuff>. The function is an epiphenomenon at the
scale of a human user that has nothing to do with the experiential qualities
of being the computer.

Colin Hales

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED]
For more options, visit this group at

Reply via email to