[ExI] How not to make a thought experiment

John Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Wed Feb 10 16:17:19 UTC 2010

Since my last post Gordon Swobe has posted 4 times:

> when I asked you [Stathis Papaioannou] if a digital computer had conscious understanding of a symbol by virtue of associating that symbol with an image file, you compared the computer's conscious understanding to that of an amoeba, suggesting that both amoebas and computers have a wee bit of consciousness. 

I can make guesses but there is no way I can know or will ever know if an amoeba is conscious; hell there is no way I can know if a rock is conscious, or even if Gordon Swobe is. Of course some things don't act as if they were conscious, as in people when they are sleeping; the universal rule of thumb for detecting consciousness is intelligent action, even Gordon Swobe uses this rule every day of his life and every hour of his day except when he's sleeping or debating the matter on the Extropian list.

I personally wouldn't endow the way an amoeba behaves with the grand title "intelligence", but reasonable people can differ on this matter; Swobe takes a somewhat more liberal view and thinks amoebas are intelligent. What is NOT reasonable is claiming that it is intelligent but not conscious. That is complete gibberish from an evolutionary viewpoint.  

> do you agree that digital computers cannot obtain conscious understanding of symbols by virtue of associating those symbols with image data? 

No I don't agree, and I must confess to having a certain feeling of contempt for the idea. I think contempt is the proper word for something that is not only inconsistent with the discoveries made by science but is also inconsistent with the way we live our daily lives when we are not debating on the Extropian List.

> I believe consciousness evolved because it enhances intelligence. 

And in a magnificent demonstration of doublethink Swobe also believes that a behavioral demonstration like the Turing test cannot detect consciousness. 

> Digital simulations of things can do no more than *simulate* those things.

Wow, now I see the error of my ways! It's a pity Swobe didn't say that two months and several hundred posts ago, think of the time we could have saved. Oh wait he did.

   John K Clark

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