[ExI] How not to make a thought experiment

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 4 06:33:39 UTC 2010

----- Original Message ----
> From: Spencer Campbell <lacertilian at gmail.com>
> To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Sent: Wed, February 3, 2010 8:44:16 AM
> Subject: Re: [ExI] How not to make a thought experiment
> John Clark :
> > Your retort is always I don't understand that or I do understand that so
> > "obviously" that can't be right. Even in theory I don't see how any
> > explanation would satisfy you.
> Right now I'm thinking the only way to do it is by forming an
> unbreakable line of similarity between Turing machines and human
> brains. Not an easy task for the same reason you hinted at: one is
> very simple and easy to understand, whereas one is very complex and
> difficult to understand.
> Basically, it all depends on what Gordon thinks is the simplest
> conceivable object capable of intentionality.

If you equate intentionality with consciousness, one is left with the result that individual cells (of all types) are conscious. This is because cells demonstrate intentionality. It is one of the lesser known hallmarks of life. Survival is intentional and anything that left survival strictly to chance would quickly be weeded out by natural selection. One can clearly see that in this video posted earlier by Spike.


The white blood cell is clearly *intent* on eating the bacterium. And the bacterium is clearly *intent* on evading the theat to its existense. Therefore a bacterium is the simplest concievable object that I am confident is capable of intentionality. Although viruses being far simpler may possibly also display intentionality if you interpret trying to hijack cells and evade the immune response as hallmarks of "intention". With regard to the on going discussion, I think that it may be an important first step to try to program a computer to be unequivocally "alive" even on the level of a bacterium as a first step. It would be far simpler than trying to create a "brain" from scratch and would lend a great deal of support to the functional case. Not to mention it would disprove vitalism once and for all which would be a feather in the cap of functionalism.   

Stuart LaForge 

"Never express yourself more clearly than you think." - Niels Bohr


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