[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Fri May 3 09:30:14 UTC 2013

Ben wrote:
> >...In my opinion, Qualia, as actual 'things that exist', come under the
> category of "not even wrong".  I'm not saying that the word doesn't mean
> anything, because obviously it means what each person using it wants it to
> mean, but that's part of the problem... Ben Zaiboc

"spike" <spike at rainier66.com> wrote:
> OK let me try an alternate description then.  My idea of the meaning of
> qualia may well be different from Brent's, but I think I have extracted from
> the discussion something useful, as follows:
> You and I, Brent, everyone here, sees a flash of coherent 700 nm light.  The
> light is completely quantized, unambiguous, we know the momentum of each
> photon exactly, the event is completely mathematically described.  We all
> have retinas which react every one differently, each of which cause some
> kind of electrochemical reaction to occur on our optical nerves, which carry
> the signals to a glob of neurons which somehow causes a chain reaction,
> neuronal pathways absolutely different in each person, chaotic branching
> dendrites going to synapses every which way along completely different paths
> in each person, so we all feel something a little different, and yet we all
> say in perfect unison "red."
> As I am using (or misusing) the term, I take qualia to be an attempted
> description of what happens immediately after those 700 nm photons hit a
> retina.  This concept is absolutely necessary to really understanding what
> is a thought and what is going on in a connectome, ja?

Ja, indeed.

That kind of makes my point for me.  Your description of a process, slightly different in each unique nervous system, but resulting in a common word being used to describe it (at least in any one language, among any single group of people.  I can imagine that among some tribe living in a tropical rainforest, their word for Red actually encompasses a slightly different set of perceptions than the equivalent word among people living in Greenland, for instance), can be called a quale.  If you want.  

Notice that this is not the same thing as "the 'feel' of seeing red" (whatever that means), which is what seems to be the most common use of the word.  

Or the name for whatever it is that represents the 'symbol' Red in our minds, that gets used whenever we need something to mean that category.  If this is what actually happens.

So already I've got 3 different meanings for the word, without even trying.

Perhaps we shouldn't use the word on its own, but a variant to indicate what we mean.  Spikequalia (Spiqualia?  Spikualia?) are your version, indicating a neural process. Benqualia are mine, indicating a mental learned category.  Brentqualia are those peculiar things that somehow 'are' the property that they represent (I think).  Gordonqualia are those things that exist in organic brains, but can't be reproduced in a digital computer, etc.

The fact that it's possible to say "invisible pink unicorn" pretty much guarantees that the word qualia, without additional qualification (in which case we might as well use a different, less ambiguous word), remains useless.

Ben Zaiboc

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