On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 5:49 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> Yes, the potential for consciousness must be present in matter, and it
>> is realised when it is arranged in an appropriate way.
> Why would it be? What does arranging have to do with the possibility of
> experiencing?

If a person is put through a mincer the atoms are all still there, but
in a different arrangement. The way the atoms are arranged is
important for life and consciousness.

>> Why do you
>> think organising the matter is the thing that makes a difference?
> I don't think that. Sense organizes itself as matter in order to keep track
> of different experiences.

Do you think that it is possible to organise the same matter in the
same configuration as an X and not get something that behaves as an X?
Could you give an example of such an experiment to make this clear?

>> We are indeed at risk from intelligent machines smarter than us, even
>> if they have originally been programmed to help us. As for the rest of
>> what you said, I don't see how it answers the question of why
>> biological but not electronic or mechanical beings can be conscious
>> given that they are made of the same stuff with the same capacity of
>> consciousness.
> Consciousness is not a mechanism, it is a story of stories. Not every story
> is of the same quality. Matter reflects this, as we are tied to very
> specific kinds of matter to support our lives. The Earth is not made of food
> for us and almost all of the rest of the universe is not made of anything
> that will allow our lives to continue. This is the actual condition of our
> existence, and I think it deserves more consideration than any theory about
> what should or should not develop a human quality of consciousness. The
> other factor is how completely unlike living beings machines actually are.
> They are unlike in ways which have not diminished at all in the history of
> their development.

We are tied to a particular type of matter but all the matter is all
made of the same subatomic particles and it doesn't matter which
supernova the atoms were formed in. That is, the matter's history is
of no significance whatsoever. The only thing of significance is the
matter's type and configuration.

> The two of these clues together, combined with my understanding of
> consciousness as an unbroken story ruled by themes of superlative/heroic
> singularity, leads me to guess that there is actually a very good reason why
> consciousness can't come out of a can - even a monumentally sophisticated
> can. It has to do with symbols vs reality, and map vs territory. I have
> explained this over and over, but just because a stuffed animal looks like a
> bear to you, doesn't mean that it isn't just a nylon bag filled with
> styrofoam. Once you understand that the premise of consciousness as function
> or form is faulty, then you can see why a collection of forms is not going
> to tap into the history of some organism that you happen to be familiar
> with.

But you can't explain why neutrons, protons and electrons in an animal
have the special spark of consciousness but are forbidden from having
this spark in a mechanical or electronic device. This is despite your
claim that it is the substance and not the configuration or function
which is most important. If the substance were the most important then
one would think it is easier to create consciousness by just
collecting together enough of the right substance.

>> The alien would not be able to tell what your concept of "Georgia" was
>> but he would be able to tell what you were actually intending to do,
>> i.e. to drive in a southerly direction until you had reached a
>> particular landmark.
> There is nothing in neuropeptides or ion channels that signifies a southerly
> direction or a particular landmark. There are only molecules, cells, and
> tissues.  They are incapable of signifying anything, just as a TV set is
> incapable of producing a TV show. This doesn't mean some special
> non-physical thing is going on, it just means that your view of physics is a
> toy model of reality that is a priori inadequate to detect the possibility
> of consciousness.

Of course there is something in the brain that signifies a southerly
direction. What do you think the neurons are there for, to keep your
skull from collapsing?

>> What I can't fathom is how you think that just because there is a lot
>> of complex movement doors open without being pushed, and then say this
>> isn't magic.
> They are being pushed, by us. We get pushed by them too. It's not magic,
> it's who and what we are. We are the who, why, and when, and our body is the
> reflected public consequence of that: the what, how, and where. The symmetry
> of perceptual relativity is what ultimately defines physics itself.

Consciousness is not detectable, only the physical processes
associated with consciousness are detectable. If the door opens due to
the physical processes associated with consciousness no-one is
surprised, because the normal causal chain is obvious. But if the door
opens due to consciousness directly, that appears as magic, since
consciousness is not directly detectable.

> We don't always *follow* we also *lead*. It's the same physical law either
> way, but we can choose to some extent how it is applied locally. That is
> what we are - local determiners of physical law. We are judge, jury,
> plaintiff, and defendant. The law works for us as much as we work for it -
> we are embedded participants, not processes or puppets. This is what life is
> all about.

No, we can't choose how physics applies locally. The physics applies
in our brain the same as it applies throughout the universe.

>> Things can change physically without necessarily changing
>> consciousness, but consciousness cannot change without the requisite
>> physical change.
> Things can change physically without necessarily changing *your personal
> consciousness* but not without changing some consciousness or experience on
> some level. Matter is inseparable from experience, but that does not mean it
> is inseparable from *human* experience. If you assume that all experience is
> human experience, then the universe outside of Earth in the last million
> years is an unexperienced blank. This is the most outrageous
> anthropomorphism in my opinion, and even though you are able to completely
> accept the idea that our experience is a simulation bearing little
> resemblance to 'reality', you have not yet followed that premise to its
> logical conclusion that you would have no valid sense of experiences outside
> of your own species. If you take consciousness seriously, it makes perfect
> sense that our experience would minimize experiences on other scales of an
> unfamiliar nature. If we look at the universe as from an absolute
> perspective - describing it in a way in which nothing at all is left out,
> then we have to imagine it as a single instant, in which every experience is
> present in some sense.

The conventional view is that the universe carries on regardless of
whether there are conscious beings to observe it.

>> But psychedelics, glial cells and the physiological changes associated
>> with NDE's are all consistent with consciousness supervening on
>> physical events.
> They are all consistent with significant experience resulting from absent
> physical activity rather than the presence. Some even claim NDEs during
> complete absence of brain activity.

Psychedelics directly affect neurotransmission and glial cells affect
multiple aspects of neural function. How are these indicators of
"absent physical activity"? And the NDE is not reported while the
brain is dormant but only when it has woken up.

>> You can't say a priori that the computer has no mind.
> Sure I can, because I understand exactly why it probably can't have one.

"Probably" does not make an a priori statement. An a priori statement
is one of absolute certainty with empirical observations being
irrelevant; for example, logical and mathematical statements.

>> Certainly the
>> observation that the computer was programmed by someone else does not
>> establish its mindlessness as an a priori fact.
> No, but until we find a person who has been programmed by a computer, we
> aren't obliged to give the assumption of computer mindfulness much credence.

It's easy to imagine a person constructed by a computer if very
advanced scanning and molecular assembly technology were available.
The computer would not even need to be very intelligent since it would
just be doing a repetitive task. I don't know if such a computer would
have a mind, but the person who was constructed would. Whether you
have a mind or not depends on your structure and function, not on who
made you.

>> No, the parts of the brain do not move unless pushed in a causal
>> chain.
> Semantic experience and voluntary will are part of the causal chain. They
> push the brain.

But semantic experience and voluntary will cannot be directly
detected. What can be detected is the neural correlates of these,
which are physical, and which cause other physical changes.

>> This is a very basic point, universally accepted by almost
>> every scientist in every field.
> I know, it is a monumental failure which is threatening the future of the
> quality of all human life. This is our last chance to correct the error.

The scientist assumes that every event has a physical explanation, and
his job is to discover what that physical explanation is. If the
explanation is non-physical it cannot be discovered and there would be
no point in scientific endeavour in that field. How does this threaten
the quality of human life?

>> In the extract from Chalmer's book you
>> posted, this corresponds with the assertion that the physical domain
>> is causally closed.
> The physical domain is causally closed, but everything is physics -
> especially feelings, thoughts, meaning, free will, etc. They are the private
> end of physics which operates top down and oriented from the interior out.
> What you think is physics is the tail end - the public range of physics
> which operates bottom up and outside in. Your view requires that you exist
> in some metaphysical domain as an unexplained illusory voyeur in a universe
> of causally closed mechanisms. I used to think that too, but know I can't
> believe how I ever did, it is so obviously a pathological model. You're in
> this separate room...making commentaries about this universe in which you
> can never participate, yet you have an illusion that you do because it helps
> the machine...
> All I can tell you is that logic can only see logic. To examine reality and
> consciousness, you need consciousness and free will.

If the physical domain is causally closed then your only hope is to
bring consciousness into the physical domain through some as yet
undiscovered physics. But in order to claim this you have to point to
some sort of anomalous experimental result, such as ion gates opening
and closing contrary to the known physical laws. You can then
speculate: maybe the neurons contain dark matter, and maybe this dark
matter has a previously unrecognised effect on normal matter, and
maybe if we observe these ion gates we will be able to deduce some of
the laws governing the behaviour of the dark matter... But the problem
is that no-one has ever observed anything in a neuron or any other
biological system doing something contrary to the chemistry which has
been mostly well-understood for a century.

>> If my brain state were repeated exactly then it seems sensible to
>> assume my mental state would also be repeated exactly.
> It does seem sensible, but I think it is absolutely wrong. It only seems
> sensible because our human consciousness, as part of its human limitations,
> elides all kinds of fine differences. We think that we walk in the same
> stream twice, but of course we don't. Nothing can be the same as anything
> else because it occupies a different place in the cosmos. Identical twins
> are not identical. Two coin flips don't have the same exact odds, because
> nothing can be completely insulated from everything else in the universe.

IF my brain were the same THEN my mental state would be the same. The
validity of this statement in a philosophical discussion is not
diminished by the fact that it would be very difficult or impossible
(though it is not impossible) for my brain state to be the same.

>> And even if
>> not, I still don't see what that has to do with computers having
>> subjectivity. Are you saying that computer states can repeat exactly,
>> unlike brain states? Then why wouldn't that just mean that computer
>> mental states would repeat?
> Even computer states don't repeat exactly from an absolute measure, but
> their tolerance for repetition is a clue to their relative unconsciousness.
> A computer is always made of physical matter, so it always has some sense
> experience, but if it isn't made of something biological then it can't/won't
> make the leap to that level of experience. It's not something that I would
> expect, but it appears to be the case. The key is understanding that
> function is not experience. Something can function as a pet but it is only a
> pet rock.

But function would seem closer to experience than substance since
disrupting function while leaving substance unchanged disrupts

>> What you define is a trick, not real magic. Real magic is where
>> something happens contrary to physics - not just the known laws but
>> any laws.
> The idea of real magic is imaginary. Anything that happens is physics,
> whether you understand it or not.

So you're admitting that your claim that the brain can change without
any physical cause is false?

>> People know that TV is not magic even though most people
>> don't know how TV works, because they assume that it does work
>> according to some physical laws.
> People also know that they have free will, but some people assume that it
> must violate some physical law because their idea of physics only includes
> how very large and very small samples of matter work.

Most people agree that they have free will even if it is put to them
that their brains operate deterministically. Maybe most people are
stupid. On the other hand, you are the one who has to claim you don't
have free will, since you make it a priori impossible by insisting
that it is neither determined nor random.

>> The experience of understanding the joke causes laughter, but this
>> experience supervenes on a series of brain states which are causally
>> closed.
> That's a contradiction. If the joke causes laughter, then the brain states
> are not causally closed w/r/t the experience of the joke.

It's not a contradiction if the joke is supervenient on the physical
brain states. But I'm not saying it is *necessarily* the case that the
universe is causally closed. If the joke directly causes the brain to
change then the universe would not be causally closed, and we would
find evidence for this. But we do not.

>> This is analogous to the hardware/software distinction with
>> computers.
> No, that's a failed analogy. Software only exists if it satisfies an
> expectation for a user. Otherwise there is only hardware cycling through
> meaningless configurations.

And if the hardware is complex enough as in the case of the brain it
creates its own user who sees meaning in it.

>> On one level it is correct to say that the computer behaved
>> as it did due to its programming, but we know that at the basic level
>> its behaviour is determined by the physical processes on which the
>> program supervenes.
> But we also know that the program supervenes on the programmer's sense and
> intentions more than it does even the physical process. The programmer's
> intention can be ported to numerous physical devices so that software does
> not supervene on any particular physics. As long as something behaves like a
> countable object, it can host a program. This is why Pinocchio can't become
> a real boy - his body is only a vehicle for the lowest level of physical
> sense interactions - binary distinctions and unitary motive. Living
> creatures need much more sophisticated capacities.

The software does not supervene on any particular physics but its
physical manifestation, which is the only thing that can be observed,

>> It is not possible for the program to magically
>> cause currents to flow in the computer circuits, but you seem to
>> believe (or half believe, because you deny that this would be magic)
>> that this is what happens in the brain.
> The program *is* the flow of current in the computer circuits. The
> difference is that the computer circuits have no user, and no user
> interface, but the brain does. We have consciousness which turns our brain
> into a glove for our will.

But it is not the program directly that causes the current to flow.
The program exists abstractly, in someone's mind or as a timeless
Platonic entity. If you isolate a conductor somewhere inside the
computer you can always measure two of current, resistance and voltage
across it and calculate the third using Ohm's law. The program will
never come along and pervert this process, because higher level
phenomena do not behave in this way. It is the same in the brain:
everything that happens in it absolutely rigidly follows the low level
physical laws, and higher level phenomena such as consciousness
supervene on this.

> Your view is bizarre to me because if you follow it through logically it
> makes any kind of self-directed action impossible. It is a radically
> truncated view of zoology, where the only meaningful difference between a
> jellyfish and a person is the shape of the body. Even the simple innovation
> of voluntary muscles seems beyond the conception of this theory. All muscles
> are involuntary, only some come with built in illusions of choice.

A voluntary action is an action that you decide to do and an
involuntary action is one that you do not decide to do. The decision
to do something is due to brain processes which are either determined
or random. If determined then I was always going to make that decision
even though I was unaware of what the decision was going to be until I
made it, and if random I was not always going to make the decision and
I still was unaware of what the decision was until I made it.
Moreover, an involuntary action could also be due to physiological
processes that are either determined or random. There is nothing in
the way I feel which indicates to me what sort of brain physiology I
have, or indeed whether I think with my brain or have a brain at all.

Stathis Papaioannou

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