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

Richard Loosemore rpwl at lightlink.com
Mon Nov 17 16:38:48 UTC 2008

Emlyn wrote:
> 2008/11/15 Richard Loosemore <rpwl at lightlink.com>:
>> 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
>> [snip]
> A new approach as far as I know, and thought provoking. Thanks for
> posting it. I don't think I can say much about it yet, it'll need
> digesting; I think there are subtle points in there that will take
> time to grok.
> I still want to say "but it doesn't explain this experience of
> subjective being", but I know you address that, and I will restrain
> myself for the moment :-)


There is a parallel discussion of this paper going on on the AGI list, 
and I thought it might be helpful for me to copy here a reply I just 
wrote to Ben Goertzel, because I think it illustrates some key ideas 
that I should have been more explicit about.

Richard Loosemore

******* Copied from AGI list post ***********

Ben Goertzel wrote:
 >     Sorry to be negative, but no, my proposal is not in any way a
 >     modernization of Peirce's metaphysical analysis of awareness.
 > Could you elaborate the difference?  It seems very similar to me.
 > You're saying that consciousness has to do with the bottoming-out of
 > mental hierarchies in raw percepts that are unanalyzable by the mind ...
 > and Peirce's Firsts are precisely raw percepts that are unanalyzable by
 > the mind...

It is partly the stance (I arrive at my position from a cognitivist 
point of view, with specific mechanisms that must be causing the 
problem), where Peirce appears to suggest the Firsts idea as a purely 
metaphysical proposal.

So, what I am saying is that this superficial resemblance between his 
position and mine is so superficial that it makes no sense to describe 
on the latter as a modernization of the former.

A good analogy would be Galilean Relativity and Einsten's Relativity. 
Although there is a superficial resemblance, nobody would really say 
that Einstein was "just" a modernization of Galileo.

 > ***
 > The standard meaning of Hard Problem issues was described very well by
 > Chalmers, and I am addressing the hard problem of concsciousness, not
 > the other problems.
 > ***
 > Hmmm....  I don't really understand why you think your argument is a
 > solution to the hard problem....  It seems like you explicitly
 > acknowledge in your paper that it's *not*, actually....  It's more like
 > a philosophical argument as to why the hard problem is unsolvable, IMO.

No, that is only part one of the paper, and as you pointed out before, 
the first part of the proposal ends with a question, not a statement 
that this was a failure to explain the problem.  That question was 

The important part is the analysis of "explanation" and "meaning".  This 
can also be taken to be about your use of the word "unsolvable" in the 
above sentence.

What I am claiming (and I will make this explicit in a revision of the 
paper) is that these notions of "explanation", "meaning", "solution to 
the problem", etc., are pushed to their breaking point by the problem of 
consciousness.  So it is not that there is a problem with understanding 
consciousness itself, so much as there is a problem with what it means 
to *explain* things.

Other things are "easy" to explain, but when we ask for an explanation 
of something like consciousness, the actual notion of "explanation" 
breaks down in a drastic way.  This is very closely related to the idea 
of an objective observer in physics .... in the quantum realm that 
notion breaks down.

What I gave in my paper was (a) a detailed description of how the 
confusion about consciousness arises [peculiar behavior of the analysis 
mechanism], but then (b) I went on to point out this peculiar behavior 
infects much more than just our ability to explain consciousness, 
because it casts doubt on the fundamental meaning of explanation and 
semantics and ontology.

The conclusion that I then tried to draw was that it would be wrong to 
say that consciousness was just an artifact or (ordinarily) inexplicable 
thing, because this would be to tacitly assume that the sense of 
"explain" that we are using in these statements is the same one we have 
always used.  Anyone who continued to use "explain" and "mean" (etc.) in 
their old context would be stuck in what I have called "Level 0", and in 
that level the old meanings [sic] of those terms are just not able to 
address the issue of consciousness.

Go back to the quantum mechanics analogy again:  it is not right to 
cling to old ideas of position and momentum, etc., and say that we 
simply do not "know" the position of an electron.  The real truth - the 
new truth about how we should understand "position" and "momentum" - is 
that the position of the electron is fundamentally not even determined 
(without observation).

This analogy is not just an analogy, as I think you might begin to 
guess:  there is a deep relationship between these two domains, and I am 
still working on a way to link them.

Richard Loosemore.

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