[ExI] Is the brain a digital computer?

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 23 15:31:29 UTC 2010

--- On Tue, 2/23/10, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

> I entertain the possibility that perhaps consciousness is different to
> other phenomena in the universe

I posit nothing special about consciousness. It only *seems* unusual because we can know about it only from the first-person perspective. Only you can feel your toothache, for example.

> and might be separable from the
> observable behaviour it seems to underpin. 

I can write a program today that will make a computer act conscious to a limited degree. I have many times. With enough knowledge and resources I could write one that fooled you into thinking it had consciousness -- that caused a computer or robot to behave in such a way that it passed the Turing test. So I don't understand why you should even question the separability of behavior and consciousness.

> That would mean I could replace part of my brain with a functionally 
> identical but unconscious analogue selectively removing any aspect of my 
> consciousness without noticing that anything had changed and without 
> displaying any outward change in behaviour. I believe that is absurd, 
> and this leads me to conclude that those who immediately saw that B' 
> must be conscious were right.

We've been through this so many times. :) 

One cannot on my view make one of your "functionally identical but unconscious analogues" in the first place if the component normally affects experience, at least not without changing other parts of the brain along with it. One might just as well try to draw a square triangle. 

The undertaking becomes problematic because replacing the neural correlates of consciousness or any part of them with a *supposed* functional but unconscious analogue will eliminate or compromise subjective experience. Experience affects behavior in normal people, and because the subject will have abnormal experience, the doctor will then need to do more work to make him behave and report normally.

He'll keep working to reprogram/rewire his brain until the subject finally speaks and act normally. In the end he'll make him into something like a functional analogue of his former self, but he may have little or no awareness of his own existence depending on facts of neuroscience that nobody today knows.

That's my view, anyway.

> Philosophical discussions often just fizzle out
> without consensus being reached, but when one party claims that
> both P and ~P are true I think everyone would agree that they have lost
> at least that part of the debate.

See above. 



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