"Stathis [from the other posting again]: 'There is good reason to
believe that the third person observable behaviour of the brain can
be emulated, because the brain is just chemical reactions and
chemistry is a well-understood field.'
MP: Once again it depends what you mean. Does 'Third person
observable behaviour of the brain' include EEG recordings and the
output of MRI imaging? Or do you mean just the movements of muscles
which is the main indicator of brain activity? If the former then I
think that would be very hard, perhaps impossible; if the latter
however, that just might be achievable.
Huh? I think it would be a relatively trivial matter to emulate MRI and
EEG data, certainly compared to emulating behaviour as evidenced by
muscle activity (complex, intelligent behaviour such as doing science or
writing novels is after all just muscle activity, which is just chemical
reactions in the muscles triggered by chemical reactions in the brain). "
MP: 'relatively trivial'? I think perhaps you underestimate what it
involved; '... the brain is just chemical reactions, and chemistry is a
well-understood field' reinforces this view. My point is that it is NOT
just chemical reactions, but chemical reactions which take place in
embodiment of multiple overlapping, inter-penetrating and
self-organising hierarchies of dynamic structures. I think that various
avenues of research are showing that a key feature of brain functioning
which 'binds' together the 'just chemical' activities of multiple brain
regions at any given moment and simultaneously at multiple scales of
size, intensity and frequencies, is the harmonic resonance and
interference patterns generated by wave forms which are made up of the
combined actions of billions of neurons propagating thousands of
impulses per second to form dynamic interaction patterns.
I think the only way to truly grasp the scope of what is occurring is
through visual imagination but linking one's ideas also to the
experience of musical polyphony and rhythms. The trick is to 'see' in
the mind's eye that the *effective* structures which make things happen
and which constitute our experiences are in fact the wave patterns
composed of swarms [or flocks, herds, shoals, clouds] of
depolarisations. The neurons, ganglia, and whatever other 'physical'
structural features you like to think about, are WHERE the dynamic
interaction structures take place. Much work has been done to show that
synapses vary in a metastable way in response to how they are used by
the interaction patterns in which they participate, as also do dendrites
which may move, extend, contract or die off in response to how they are
used. The figurative nature of these patterns is embodied in the
multiple, distributed locations in which most of their activity takes
place and also in the characteristic temporal consistency of interaction
between the spatially discrete or contiguous but contrastive locations.
Furthermore it seems very likely, if not yet certain, that many
synergistic effects will be occurring such as the occurrence of electric
fields oscillating in directions orthogonal to the propagation of impulses.
MRI scans may be very good for pinpointing the topological features of
this dynamic activity but not so the temporal details. On the other hand
EEG records can give much better detail for some temporal features but
the spatial resolution is very course and confined to areas near the
skull. New techniques using laser beams passed through parts of the
brain are capable of giving millisecond resolution to some events
occurring deeper within. So also can very thin electrodes which report
events within or near individual neurons, but here the problem is the
limit to how many needles are allowed to be inserted into a human
cortical pin cushion: not many! One day though someone is going to
develop a kind of nanobot which can migrate unobtrusively through brain
tissue and broadcast radio pulses describing the activity of neurons
near by as well as key features of electric fields and other ambient
Stathis:'As for scientific research, I never managed to understand why
Colin thought this was more than just a version of the Turing test. '
MP: I think the key point is that successful basic science involves a
degree of spontaneous creativity that is not merely an algorithmic
implementation of rules, as opposed to, say, a competent chess-playing
program or a merely classificatory program. It involves the construction
of a new way of looking at the world, and then the testing of
predictions which arise from the construct. In passing I would say this
also is a key test for defining what is a REAL world. I tend to think
that a Matrix of the eponymous Hollywood movie type, would suffer from
being a Zenoverse: the resolution of time and space would be so lumpy as
to REQUIRE a belief in a designer.
Stathis: 'I can meaningfully talk about "seeing red" to a blind person
who has no idea what the experience is like ... '
MP: OK, but can he or she meaningfully understand you?
Stathis: 'it is possible to conceive of intelligently-behaving beings
who do not have an internal life because they lack the right sort of
brains. I am not suggesting that this is the case and there are reasons
to think it is unlikely to be the case, but it is not ruled out by any
MP: 'internal life' can mean a variety of things. One could be strongly
tempted to think that some participants on the Jerry Springer [sp?]
show, experience perceptual qualia but nothing else! I am pretty sure
that the majority of mammals and birds are like this, reptiles maybe,
fish also to various degrees. Worms and insects? I dunno.
Mark Peaty CDES
Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 1. If it behaved as if it were conscious *and* it did this using the
> same sort of hardware as I am using (i.e. a human brain) then I would
> agree that almost certainly it is conscious. If the hardware were on a
> different substrate but a direct analogue of a human brain and the
> result was a functionally equivalent machine then I would be almost as
> confident, but if the configuration were completely different I would
> not be confident that it was conscious and I would bet that at least
> it was differently conscious. As for scientific research, I never
> managed to understand why Colin thought this was more than just a
> version of the Turing test.
> 2. I don't consider biological machines to be fundamentally different
> to other machines.
> 3. Sure, different entities with (at least) functionally different
> brains will be differently conscious. But I like to use "conscious in
> the way I am" in order to avoid having to explain or define
> consciousness in general, or my consciousness in particular. I can
> meaningfully talk about "seeing red" to a blind person who has no idea
> what the experience is like: What wavelengths of light lead me to see
> red? Can I still see red if my eyes are closed or my optic nerve
> severed? What if I have a stroke in the visual cortex? What if certain
> parts of my cortex are electrically stimulated? That is, I can go a
> very long way with the definition "that experience which i have when a
> red coloured object enters my visual field".
> Stathis [from the other posting again]: 'There is good reason to
> believe that the third person observable behaviour of the brain
> can be emulated, because the brain is just chemical reactions and
> chemistry is a well-understood field.'
> MP: Once again it depends what you mean. Does 'Third person
> observable behaviour of the brain' include EEG recordings and the
> output of MRI imaging? Or do you mean just the movements of
> muscles which is the main indicator of brain activity? If the
> former then I think that would be very hard, perhaps impossible;
> if the latter however, that just might be achievable.
> Huh? I think it would be a relatively trivial matter to emulate MRI
> and EEG data, certainly compared to emulating behaviour as evidenced
> by muscle activity (complex, intelligent behaviour such as doing
> science or writing novels is after all just muscle activity, which is
> just chemical reactions in the muscles triggered by chemical reactions
> in the brain).
> Stathis: 'I think it is very unlikely that something as elaborate
> as consciousness could have developed with no evolutionary purpose
> (evolution cannot distinguish between me and my zombie twin if
> zombies are possible), but it is a logical possibility.'
> MP: I agree with the first bit, but I do not agree with the last
> bit. If you adopt what I call UMSITW [the Updating Model of Self
> In The World], then anything which impinges on consciousness, has
> a real effect on the brain. In effect the only feasible zombie
> like persons you will meet will either be sleep walking or
> otherwise deficient as a consequence of drug use or brain trauma.
> I think Oliver Sachs's book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat
> gives many examples illustrating the point that all deficiencies
> in consciousness correlate strictly with lesions in the sufferer's
> A human with an intact brain behaving like an awake human could not
> really be a zombie unless you believe in magic. However, it is
> possible to conceive of intelligently-behaving beings who do not have
> an internal life because they lack the right sort of brains. I am not
> suggesting that this is the case and there are reasons to think it is
> unlikely to be the case, but it is not ruled out by any empirical
> Stathis Papaioannou
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