[ExI] How not to make a thought experiment.

John Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Fri Feb 26 17:39:41 UTC 2010

Since my last post Gordon Swobe has posted 6 times.

> The Turing test defines (weak) AI and neurons cannot take the Turing test,
> so I don't know what it means to speak of an AI behaving like a neuron. 

Swobe thinks its possible for a computer to behave externally just like you or me, but he thinks its impossible for a computer to behave externally like a neuron, it can simulate a 100 billion things but it can't simulate one thing. But wait I can hear the Swobe apologists say, he is saying the neuron is doing something (something pointless from Evolution's viewpoint) completely internal to the neuron that generates consciousness, a "something" that is in no way communicated to other neurons. Since in the consciousness realm neurons are completely isolated from each other, it would be interesting if Swobe could explain why there aren't 100 billion independent conscious beings in his head. Or perhaps there are. 

> If and when we understand how neurons cause consciousness [...]

There is no hope of Swobe being satisfied in a explanation of how neurons cause consciousness because he is not interested in what the neurons actually do, so the Scientific Method can not help him. In fact I don't understand why he assumes neurons or even the brain in general has anything to do with consciousness. The brain clearly has much to do with intelligence but according to Swobe that means nothing. In the Magical Kingdom of Swobeland the key organ of consciousness is just as likely to be the big toe as the brain.

> I do not consider information on a hard drive as constitutive of thought, for the same reason that I do not believe newspapers think about the words printed on them.

That is a really lousy example. Newspapers are static and a static mind is not a mind, computers are not static.

> You argue then for mind/matter dualism. [...] Again you argue for mind/matter dualism. [...]That sounds like some of sort of dualistic religion to me.

For some strange reason Swobe thinks we should regard with horror something that has two contrasting aspects, but I'll let him in on a little secret, some things can even have three.

> If we want to call ourselves materialists (a noble motivation, I think) then it seems to me we must say that thoughts have mass.

Christianity has ten commandments so "ten" must have mass, that car is broken so "broken" must have mass, I do not understand what the hell Swobe is talking about so "not" must have mass.

> If should seem obvious, for example, that thoughts don't exist in the absence of brain matter. 

Thoughts need something to think them, grey goo can do that but so could beer cans and toilet paper if you had enough of them and were cunning enough to arrange them just so. If Swobe's intuition rebels against that then that's just too bad because Turing proved it's a fact; and there is no reason to think our intuition should be any good in this matter because as I said before there would be little survival value in being good at it, so Evolution didn't bother. When our ancestors were living on the African savannas they encountered very few beer can and toilet paper computers.

 John K Clark

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