[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Gordon gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Mon May 6 05:55:19 UTC 2013

Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

> If an artificial NCC can replicate the I/O behaviour of the biological

> NCC then the person must behave normally, since all the impulses to
> the muscles will occur normally. Do you see how this must be so? Do
> you see any problem with the idea that a person behaves normally while
> a part of his conscious mind (namely, that part due to the NCC
> replaced with artificial components) is missing?

I'm not even sure what "replicate the I/O behavior" means when we're discussing NCC neurons and qualia. Are qualia inputs? Or are they outputs? When someone shines a light in my eye, it seems like an input. On the other hand, I seem to be representing that light to myself, in which case the quale is more like an output. Perhaps qualia are not inputs or outputs, but something else entirely. I don't know. So, if our purpose here is to investigate whether digital neurons can replace organic neurons in the NCC and create conscious experience, which I think plays a role in driving behavior, I would not know how to begin to answer your question as I don't know how to interpret your first sentence. Do you?

Here is my more general issue with functionalism and multiple realizability as they relate to strong AI on digital computers:

I have a ceiling fan in my home. The blades are made of wood. I've seen other ceiling fans with metal blades, and still others with stained-glass blades. They all function as fans, and so along with functionalists I'm happy to call them all fans. I've also seen hammers made of iron and others made of steel. Again, both hammers. Fans are realizable in wood, metal and glass; hammers are realizable in iron and steel. Only the functions are important. The substrates make no difference. All well and good. 

But things get muddled when we begin to talk about the supposed multiple realizability of brains in both organic materials and software/hardware platforms. A digital computer is not in the same class of things as fans and hammers. With fans and hammers, we are looking purely at the direct physical effects of one substrate on another. Fans are defined as those physical things that directly circulate physical air, hammers are defined as those physical things that directly drive physical nails. A computer program, by contrast, is defined by functionalists as anything that admits of abstract 1's and 0's (or ons and offs, however you want to think of it) and the brain (like everything else in the world) does admit to such an interpretation. This is why they say brains are multiply realized on computers. But those syntactical abstractions are not actually *intrinsic* to the physics of the organic brain. Functionalists and computationalists merely assign them
 to the physics.

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