[ExI] How not to make a thought experiment

John Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Tue Feb 16 06:29:45 UTC 2010

Since my last post Gordon Swobe has posted 11 times.
> Come the singularity, some people will lose their grips on reality and find themselves believing such absurdities as that digital depictions of people have real mental states. A few lonely philosophers of my stripe will try in vain to restore their sanity.

As far as the future is concerned it really doesn't matter if Swobe's ideas are right or wrong, either way they're as dead as the Dodo. Even if he's 100% right and I am 100% wrong people with my ideas will have vastly more influence than people like him because we will not be held back by superstitious ideas about "THE ORIGINAL". So it's pedal to the metal upgrading, Jupiter brain ahead. Swobe just won't be  able to keep up with the electronic competition. Only a few axons in the brain can send signals as fast as 100 meters per second, non-myelinated axon's are only able to go about 1 meter per second. Light moves at 300,000,000 meters per second.

Perhaps after the singularity the more conservative and superstitious among us could still survive in some little backwater somewhere, like the Amish do today, but I doubt it.

> I think you want me to believe that my watch has a small amount of consciousness by virtue of it having a small amount of intelligence. But I don't think that makes even a small amount of sense. It seems to me that my watch has no consciousness

I'm not surprised Swobe can't make sense of it all, nothing in the Biological sciences makes any sense without Evolution, and he has shown a profound ignorance not only of that theory but of the fossil record in general. Evolution found it far harder to come up with intelligence than consciousness, the brain structures that produce the basic emotions we share with many other animals and are many hundreds of millions of years old, while the higher brain structures that produce language, mathematics and abstract thought in general, things that make humans unique, are less than a million years old and possibly much less. Swobe does not use his higher brain structures to think with and prefers to think with his gut; but many animals have an intestinal tract and to my knowledge none of them are particularly good philosophers.

> Consciousness, as I mean it today, entails the ability to have conscious intentional states. That is, it entails the ability to have something consciously "in mind"

So consciousness means the ability to be conscious, that is to say the ability to consciously think about stuff. Thank you so much for those words of wisdom!
> If I make a jpeg of you with my digital camera, that digital depiction of you will have no mental states.

Swobe may very well be right in this particular instance, but it illustrates the useless nature of the grotesque exercises he gives the grandiose name "thought experiment". Swobe has no way to directly measure the mental states even of his fellow human beings much less that of a digital camera; and yet over the last few months he has made grand pronouncements about the mental states of literally hundreds of things. To add insult to injury the mental state of things is exactly what he's trying to prove; he just doesn't understand that saying X has no consciousness is not the same as proving X has no consciousness.

> The idea is that while a person doesn't understand Chinese, somehow the conjunction of that person and bits of paper might understand Chinese. It is not easy for me to imagine how someone who was not in the grip of an ideology would find the idea at all plausible. 

Swobe admits, and if fact seems delighted by the fact, that he has absolutely no idea what causes consciousness; nevertheless he thinks he can always determine a priori what has consciousness and what does not, and it has nothing to do with the way they behave. The conjunction of a person with bits of paper might display intelligence, in fact there is no doubt that it could, but it could never be conscious because, because, well just because; but Swobe thinks 3 pounds of grey goo being conscious  is perfectly logical. Can Swobe explain why one thing is ridiculous and the other logical? Nope, it's just that he's accustomed to one and not the other. That's it. 

> Depictions of things, digital or otherwise, do not equal the things they depict

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.

> the man cannot grok the symbols by virtue of manipulating them according to the rules of syntax 

> 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.

> Depictions of things do not equal the things they depict.

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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