[ExI] A paper that actually does solve the problem of consciousness

Richard Loosemore rpwl at lightlink.com
Sat Nov 15 16:34:53 UTC 2008

Brent Allsop wrote:
> Richard,
> First, a few trivial problems I noticed:
> page 4:
>  > We cannot simply wave our hands and pick a
>  > set of criteria to apply to these things, we ??? some convincing
>  > reasons for choosing as we do.
> conclusion:
>  > We could never "prove" this statement the
>  > way that we prove things about other concepts, but all of
>  > the concepts related to consciousness are deemed to have a
>  > special status-??the?? are real, but beyond analysis

Many thanks for catching those

> Definitely, yet another falsifiable theory of consciousness.  But I like 
> a different theory much better which falsifiably predicts you're making 
> some key mistakes.  This theory - that nature simply has phenomenal 
> properties - is here:
> http://canonizer.com/topic.asp/23/2

I confess I have read only a short way into this piece, but already I 
see a severe problem:  it belongs in the "Let's just pass a scientific 
law to say that C-phenomena are valid, and forget about explaining them" 

In other words, it seems to "explain" C by simply asserting that Science 
is actually Science+C, with C being some additional set of primitives, 
with no connection (other than an epiphenomenal one) to the regular 
world of Science.

That position has been articulated before, but most people find it 
deeply unsatisfactory.

Moreover, the position described in that page makes a telling statement 
near the beginning:  "We believe that evolution has managed to use 
something that has a red phenomenal property to represent knowledge of 
something that reflects 700 nm light...".  This brings down their whole 
position, because if "evolution" was able to "use" something that has a 
red phenomenal property, then (a) how did it manage to get hold of it, 
if the "something" was beyond the reach of science? and (b) if the 
"something" was not beyond the reach of science (so one day we can 
objectively observe the something and connect it to the rest of the 
physical world), then what is this "phenomenal quality" that the 
something is supposed to have ... it seems that the original questions 
are all there, in 100% of their original force, about the "something".

I cannot see any way to parse this Camp Statement "Nature Has Ineffable 
Phenomenal Properties" that gets around these problems.  The statement 
does not address them.

And where is the falsifiable prediction in this camp statement?  I 
cannot find it.

Nor can I find any sense in which this position "falsifiably predicts 
that [I] am making some key mistakes"..... ummm, isn't that, like, 
nothing to do with the meaning of "falsifiable prediction"? :-)  One 
cannot falsifiably predict that someone is making some mistakes; we just 
predict some phenomena, and then go and measure them...... no?

> It appears to me your theory is very similar to the one Chalmers argues 
> for represented by this slightly more well represented camp (i.e. two 
> people so far, and possibly Chalmers himself) here:
> http://canonizer.com/topic.asp/23/9

Well, I guess I would say that it is not exactly fair to say the two 
theories are similar, because Chalmers' argument does not make any 
attempt to say where all this comes from and what its ontological status is.

Chalmers' argument is *consistent* with what I have argued, but the two 
statements are very very different.

FWIW, Chalmers did actually listen to and read my argument when I put it 
on a poster at the 2006 conference in Tucson.  His first reaction was 
that it broke down at a certain place, but when I pointed out to him 
that I had already defended against that reply (and defended against all 
possible extensions of that reply), his only comment was that "yes, that 
might work", and he asked me to send him a copy of the paper.

> Both of these competing camps agree on, and support the representational 
> super camp here.
> http://canonizer.com/topic.asp/23/7

Again, this only a general statement about a category of possible 
solutions to the problem, without any flesh on its bones, which would 
allow it to explain exactly *why* the quandary arises.  It talks about 
C-phenomena being an "illusion" without addressing the problem of what 
kind of illusion, and why.  It is vague, and leaves many, many questions 

I believe that the paper I just presented did not leave any loose ends 
(of any substance), and gave a more comprehensive account of all the 
various sub-issues than I have ever seen in any of the extant positions.

So, having stuck my neck out like that, I need to be attacked on 
specific points that people think I did not cover.

> I"m wondering if you would consider yourself a representationalist?  If 
> not then what?  I don't see anything you've said that disagrees with 
> what is stated there, yet you fail to mention it at all.  And there are 
> some leading theinkeers currently working together on joining and 
> improving this representational camp such as: John Smythies, Richard 
> Wilson, Edmond Wright, Mark Ancil Crooks, and Stephen Harrison.

That is a tricky question.

The problem is this.  Representationalists say some things that are 
entirely consistent with the position I have stated - for example, that 
the only knowledge that we have is actually just the concepts in our 
heads, and that the "real world" is not a thing that can be separated 
from our knowledge of it (or, indeed, the "real world" might not even 
exist.... we simply have no way to know).

So far so good.  But then the representationalists sometimes use further 
language that introduces concepts that are hard to parse or justify.  To 
take an example from the position statement at


"There is also our *knowledge* of what we are looking at which is the 
final result of the perception process entirely in our brain. We believe 
this conscious knowledge to be composed of phenomenal properties."

(emphasis added)

This paragraph can be taken as referring to the concept-atoms that I 
described in my paper (i.e. when they say "knowledge"), BUT then they go 
on to say that "this conscious knowledge to be composed of phenomenal 
properties", which is a huge leap from mechanism-talk (concept-atoms) to 
phenomenological talk (...composed of phenomenal properties).

My response to that paragraph is that everything was going fine until 
the sudden jump!

So it would take a great deal of detailed explication to pick apart the 
difference between me and a representationalist, but the short reply is 
that they go places I do not want to go, for reasons that seem pulled 
out of thin air.

And, to repeat my theme throughout this post, they do not give a 
detailed account of why all the various problems related to 
consciousness should be the way that they are.  Nor do they make 
falsifiable predictions.

> It would definitely be great to get this "Loosemore Argument"? canonized 
> with the rest of the theories, so it can be concisely and quantitatively 
> represented along with all the other theories being added.

Yes, I will try to do that.

> When you say:
>  > This escaping-the-objective
>  > feature is not just about explaining consciousness, it is also
>  > about defining it: for every "objective" definition that has
>  > ever been proposed, it seems, someone has countered that
>  > the real mystery has been side-stepped by the definition.
> and
>  > We could never "prove" this statement the
>  > way that we prove things about other concepts, but all of
>  > the concepts related to consciousness are deemed to have a
>  > special status-the are real, but beyond analysis
> The nature has phenomenal properties theory predicts this is false or 
> wrong.  The 'objective' definition and proof is to simply 'eff' what it 
> is like - as in: 'oh THAT is what salt is like'.  Very different than 
> saying what it behaves like in a cause and effect way.

As I said above, the Nature Has Phenomenal Properties Theory can be 
criticized for (a) not really saying why the various observations about 
consciousness should be the way they are (my theory does do that, I 
believe), and it also has internal inconsistencies, like its ambiguity 
concerning the relationship between the phenomenal properties and the real.

Also, you mentioned "prediction" again.  I think this is confusing: 
their disagreement with my position is not the same as predicting that I 
am wrong, because prediction is really only about doing empirical 
experiments (or rather, in the context of *my* usage of "flasifiable 
predictions", that is what it means).

> And of course when you conclude:
>  > Any computer designed in such a way that it had the same
>  > problems as we do with the analysis mechanism (arguably,
>  > any computer intelligent enough to be comparable to
>  > ourselves) would experience consciousness.
> Chalmers would probably agree with you, but the nature has phenomenal 
> properties camp predicts this will be proven wrong.

Hmmmm, perhaps you could clarify.  What is the exact nature of the 
prediction that they make?  I am unclear.

> Looking forward to hearing how your presentation of this goes this 
> weekend at Convergence08.  I wish I could be there to experience it, and 
> I hope everyone will let me know how this and everything else went.
> Brent Allsop

Oh, this is for possible inclusion in AGI-09:  I am not going to 

Richard Loosemore

> Richard Loosemore wrote:
>> I completed the first draft of a technical paper on consciousness the 
>> other day.   It is intended for the AGI-09 conference, and it can be 
>> found at:
>> http://susaro.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/draft_consciousness_rpwl.pdf
>> The title is "Consciousness in Human and Machine: A Theory and Some 
>> Falsifiable Predictions", and it does solve the problem, believe it or 
>> not.
>> But I have no illusions:  it will be misunderstood, at the very least. 
>> I expect there will be plenty of people who argue that it does not 
>> solve the problem, but I don't really care, because I think history 
>> will eventually show that this is indeed the right answer.  It gives a 
>> satisfying answer to all the outstanding questions and it feels right.
>> Oh, and it does make some testable predictions.  Alas, we do not yet 
>> have the technology to perform the tests yet, but the predictions are 
>> on the table, anyhow.
>> In a longer version I would go into a lot more detail, introducing  
>> the background material at more length, analyzing the other proposals 
>> that have been made and fleshing out the technical aspects along 
>> several dimensions.  But the size limit for the conference was 6 
>> pages, so that was all I could cram in.
>> Richard Loosemore
>> P.S.  Yes, I know: everyone and their mother has a theory of 
>> consciousness these days.  But, believe me, I wouldn't dare to join 
>> that (mostly confused and disreputable) crowd unless I really thought 
>> that this paper actually *did* solve the problem.
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