[ExI] Redness comes from Context? Was Re: Digital Consciousness

Mike Perry mike at alcor.org
Sun May 5 22:05:13 UTC 2013

At 19:46 2013-05-04, Brent Allsop wrote:
>Mike Perry (I CC:ed him to pull him into this conversation) 
>indicated qualities have a "context".  In other words, he indicated 
>that a set of bits fully describing the brain, while it was 
>experiencing 'redness' was written down in a book, from our 
>perspective, reading the static book, would not have a redness 
>quality.  But, from the perspective of the world described, in the 
>book, or from this different 'context', it would have a redness quality.

"A set of bits fully describing the brain" in effect *is* the brain, 
*from the "context" (I like to call it a "frame of reference") in 
which it is embedded. This set of bits could describe state changes 
in that brain over time. In effect this "brain" (just a static record 
to us) can be thought of as being a conscious system *relative to its 
own frame of reference*. Relative to that it might indeed be 
perceiving red. But this frame of reference in effect is modeling the 
passage of time as well as the perceptions in the brain over this 
time interval. (And I assume this modeling can occur at the quantum 
level, a "black box" level that should be fully capable of 
representing consciousness whatever that may be. A simulation of 
consciousness at the quantum level, if done in our space-time frame 
of reference, would necessarily in my view embody true consciousness 
or at least no one could prove otherwise. A "simulation" done by way 
of a static record that just recorded all the state changes would not 
embody consciousness from our perspective, that is to say, from our 
frame of reference or "context," but would do so from the frame of 
reference defined by the record. The record could in fact record 
state changes over a volume of spacetime that included but was not 
limited to just the brain by itself, etc.)

>[...]it seems to me that you [...] think that a redness quality is 
>all about context.  If something, no matter what it is, is in the 
>right context, it then has [a redness quality], or at least a 
>redness quality will emerge from it.

For me the "context" just means you have a representation of a brain 
that is experiencing redness. I don't see that there is a problem with that.

>So, if I have all that right, let me walk through a certain 
>perception scenario, and tell me if I'm still on the right track. 
>Let's say we want to perceive 2 'red' objects.  A strawberry, and a 
>pool ball, painted with lead based 'red' paint.  Now, for 
>experimental purposes, we can't see the light reflected off these 
>guys, directly.  We have t[w]o camera/TV systems that invert red and 
>green signals.  The first one, can see the two object[s], and 
>produces "green objects" on it's screen, converting the 650 NM light 
>int 700 NM light.  Then a second system can 'see' this inverted 
>image on that first screen, and re invert the red green signal, 
>producing a properly colored image of a strawberry, and a pool ball, 
>reflecting 650 or red light.  It is our eyes that see this second 
>correctly colored screen.  Resulting in our brain producing 
>something with a redness quality, as it's knowledge of the two 'red' 
>items - the final result of the entire perception process.
>So, it seems to me that, from the 'context', both the strawberry, 
>and the pool ball are 'red'.

I don't think this follows. The "context" you talk about doesn't seem 
to contain a brain that perceives. If you include that (and the brain 
that perceives exhibits certain state changes etc.) then it can be 
said that red is perceived.

>   Also the 650NM light reflecting off both of them also, from the 
> context, is 'red'.

Again, you've left out any brain that perceives. That is where "red" 
is perceived, not somewhere else.

>  And also, the inverted green or 700NM light, after the first 
> inverter, because of the context, is also now 'red', and the same 
> is true for every representation all the way to the final knowledge 
> of such, produced in our brain.
>So, finally, do you guys see the terrible mistake I think you guys 
>are making by thinking qualia can 'arise' from anything, as long as 
>it has the right 'context'?

Again, you misunderstand my notion of "context" which again I call a 
"frame of reference." Only brains perceive red so the frame of 
reference must include a representation of a brain that perceives red 
within it or it cannot be said that "perception of red" is embodied 
or embedded within the system. However, overall, "perception of red" 
*can* be embodied (in my view) in a pile of bits irrespective of how 
one may "interpret" them, so long as there exists a way to reasonably 
interpret them as a brain that perceives red. (Are all such "ways of 
interpreting" completely arbitrary and thus meaningless? NO! Because 
arbitrary interpretations would completely ignore the complexity 
issue. Thus there are preferred ways of interpreting and it does make 
sense to call some ways of interpreting reasonable and others not. A 
movie if reasonably encoded would more reasonably be interpreted as a 
movie than being no different than just a random string of 
high-complexity gibberish, or being some other, totally diffferent 
movie. A longer discussion of this point is called for but I will 
move on in the interest of brevity.)

>Other than the final result of the perception process, the only 
>thing that really has any redness quality, is our knowledge.  And 
>all of the other red and green light, only is 'red' because we think 
>of them as having such a quality.  Obviously, the red light, the 
>green light, nor does anything else have a redness quality to it.

I would say, *not quite!*, if I understand you correctly. When you 
say "our knowledge", it sounds like you are saying that the pile of 
bits cannot have any intrinsic "redness" in it but that quality has 
to be supplied somehow from the outside by again, "our knowledge." 
No, I disagree. But your system has avoided including anything but 
yourself that does the perceiving. Put in the right type of brain 
and, when it sees the 650NM light (more like 510NM for green, 650NM 
for red) it perceives red just as surely as you do with the other 
wavelength. If I have a pile of bits describing the reactions of this 
brain to the green light I can say that by reasonable interpretation 
red is being perceived in that particular frame of reference. This 
has nothing to do, initially, with any "state of knowledge" that I 
may have. I approach this pile of bits with no preconceived notion of 
what it "means." But, assuming it has the right stuff expressed in a 
low-complexity way, I finally emerge with the conviction that it 
describes a brain that is perceiving red, even though it may happen 
that the actual wavelength of light that (it describes that) elicits 
this response is something that if I were to see it would appear to 
me as green.


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