[ExI] Zombie glutamate

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Mon Feb 16 21:18:12 UTC 2015

On Tuesday, 17 February 2015, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 11:49 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com
> <javascript:_e(%7B%7D,'cvml','stathisp at gmail.com');>> wrote:
> >> Since you can't prove what causes consciousness you can't prove that
>>> moving the mind to a different substrate, like from biology to electronics,
>>> won't effect or destroy the consciousness.
>> > Yes, you CAN prove just that, with the only assumption being that
>> consciousness, if it exists,
> We don't need to assume that, we all know from direct experience that
> consciousness exists, or at least I know that mine does.
>> > is due to physical processes in your brain.
> Sure, but WHICH physical process?

At this point, the only assumption is that it is due to some physical
processes in the brain as opposed to, for example, an immaterial soul. The
fewer assumptions you need to make in an argument, the more robust the

> If you're going to change the substrate your mind operates on from biology
> to electronics then, although the logical schematic would remain the same,
> some physical processes are going to change or be eliminated entirely. If
> one of those physical mechanisms produces consciousness and does nothing
> else (and the discovery of such a thing would prove Darwin wrong because it
> could never been created by natural selection) and your new mind doesn't
> include it then you would be just as intelligent as you are now or even
> more so, but you would not be conscious. However as I've said I think the
> probability of that idea being correct and Darwin being wrong is so
> ridiculously tiny it would be silly to worry about it.
>> > As I've tried to explain several times, the argument is a reductio ad
>> absurdum. If we say that a replacement part functions perfectly according
>> to every test but lacks the ability to sustain consciousness, that would
>> allow us to make you completely blind
> Huh?

Essentially as you said above - if it were possible to separate
consciousness from behaviour it should be possible to make a visual cortex
which functions normally and put it in your brain. You would then lack
visual perception - which is the definition of blindness - but you would
behave normally - because the replacement part reproduces all the inputs
and outputs of the original in its interface with the remaining brain

> but you would behave normally
> Yes, you'd be a intelligent zombie, and I worry about the idea that
> intelligent zombies are possible about as much as I worry about me being
> the only conscious entity in the universe. Not much.

But you seem to accept that it is at least logically possible. And if it is
logically possible, we can imagine a visual cortex as above, functioning
perfectly but lacking consciousness.

> > according to any test we apply to you, and either honestly believe that
>> you had normal vision or, if you realised you were blind [...]
> I don't understand. If you're not conscious then you're out of the
> realization game, you behave intelligently but you don't realize anything.

Consider the special case where most of your brain is intact, so that you
can walk, talk, reason, experience emotions and so on in the normal
conscious way. The only part that is altered is the visual cortex,
replaced with a part manufactured by super-advanced aliens using exotic
technologies which interfaces perfectly with the rest of your brain. The
problem is, these aliens have no idea if you are conscious and no interest
in preserving your consciousness; they are scientists and engineers
only concerned with the observable functionality of your visual cortex.
What would happen?

Stathis Papaioannou
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