[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Brent Allsop brent.allsop at canonizer.com
Mon May 6 19:05:00 UTC 2013

Hi Stathis,

I hear you saying that you have proven, at least in your mind, that there
is a hard problem with no solution.  Is this necessity not the most absurd
and faithless necessity in your model?  It’s just a chunk of grey matter,
and we can quite reliably produce a redness experience and a greenness
experience and so on.  Why is it that you hold on to such questionable
rational so tightly, thinking it has been proven, and all that.  Yet have
no qualm at all at accepting that there is such a ‘hard problem’ and that
“it is impossible to make such a device” and so on?

If your logic is proving that something is impossible, which we know more
than anything – that it is not impossible, wouldn’t it be better to assume
you have a problem, somewhere else in your logic, than thinking there is
such a hard problem with regular old consciousness?

Brent Allsop

On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 12:48 PM, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com>wrote:

> On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 5:41 PM, Gordon <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >>The inputs and outputs I'm talking about are action potentials which
> >>trigger neurotransmitter release at synapses. The neurons in the NCC
> >>receive inputs from other neurons that connect with them and send
> >>output to other neurons via their axon.
> >
> > Just third-person descriptions in the language of physics.
> >
> >> In the process, qualia may somehow be produced, but qualia are neither
> >> inputs nor outputs so are
> >> excluded from this part of the analysis.
> >
> > Yes, qualia "may somehow be produced." Actually, I think are produced.
> lol.
> > How does that happen?
> >
> > Consider for a moment that the world might not be fully understandable in
> > the third-person language of physics. Perhaps there is something that we
> > might call first-person ontology. As science-minded people, we want to
> > describe everything in the world in the objective language of physics.
> But
> > perhaps the world is both subjective and objective.
> >
> > Toothaches are not the same thing as the physics that describe them. They
> > really hurt!
> A motor neuron controlling your vocal cords will only fire if the neurons
> connected to it fire, and those neurons will in turn only fire if the
> upstream neurons fire. There is to be sure a very complex network of
> neurons between the sensory organ and the motor neuron, but each
> component of the network follows a relatively simple set of rules. The
> neurons of the NCC also follow these rules, and it is the timing and
> amplitude of their output (action potential propagating down the axon)
> which determines if the downstream neurons fire. So if these NCC neurons
> are replaced with artificial neurons that replicate their pattern of firing
> in response to upstream stimuli, the downstream neurons must respond in the
> same way and the subject must behave in the same way as with the original
> brain. Is there any part if this that you don't agree with?
> >> If the artificial NCC neuron reproduces the outputs given certain
> inputs,
> >> then all
> >> the downstream neurons to which it connects behave normally. This is
> >> irrespective of
> >> any qualia it may or may not have, since as you admitted qualia are
> >> not outputs.
> >
> > No, I wrote that qualia might be inputs or outputs, or something else
> > entirely.
> >
> > I notice that you did not respond to my criticism of functionalism and
> > multiple realizability, which I consider very important. You quoted it
> below
> > but did not answer.
> >
> >>> 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.
> My conviction that functionalism is correct does not come from
> considerations like yours. I agree that it is not immediately obvious that
> a computer could be conscious.  But if a device (computer or
> otherwise) could reproduce the observable behaviour of a neuron without
> the consciousness that would lead to absurdity, as I have explained
> repeatedly, and this leads to the conclusion that it is impossible to make
> such a device.
> --
> Stathis Papaioannou
> --
> Stathis Papaioannou
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