If anyone is not familiar with David Chalmers "Absent Qualia, Fading
Qualia, Dancing Qualia" You should have a look at
This thought experiment is intended to generalize principles common to both
computationalism and functionalism so that the often confusing objections
surrounding their assumptions can be revealed.
Say that we have the technology to scan the city of New York by means of
releasing 100,000 specially fitted cats into the streets, which will return
to the laboratory in a week's time with a fantastically large amount of
data about what the cats see and feel, smell and taste, hear, their
positions and movements relative to each other, etc.
We now set about computing algorithms to simulate the functions of Brooklyn
such that we can tear down Brooklyn completely and replace it with a
simulation which causes cats released into the simulated environment to
behave in the same way as they would have according to the history of their
Indeed, cats in Manhattan travel to and from Brooklyn as usual. Perhaps to
get this right, we had to take all of Brooklyn and grind it up in a giant
blender until it becomes a paste of liquified corpses, garbage, concrete,
wood, and glass, and then use this substrate to mold into objects that can
be moved around remotely to suit the expectations of the cats.
Armed with the confidence of the feline thumbs-up, we go ahead and replace
Manhattan and the other boroughs in the same way, effectively turning a
city of millions into a cat-friendly cemetery. While the experiment is not
a PR success (Luddites and Fundamentalists complain loudly about a
genocide), our cats assure us that all is well and the experiment is a
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