[ExI] Zombie glutamate

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Tue Feb 17 23:38:18 UTC 2015

On 18 February 2015 at 02:36, Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at canonizer.com> wrote:
> Hi John,
> You keep saying:  "You can't prove if something else is conscious."  But,
> does your left brain hemisphere not know, more than we know anything, not
> only that your right hemisphere is it conscious, but what it is
> qualitatively like.  And if that is possible, why are you assuming we can't
> do the same thing the corpus callosum is doing, between brains, not just
> between brain hemispheres?

That's an interesting and relevant point about the left and right
hemispheres of the brain. It does, however, illustrate that the only
way we can really know what it is like to experience something is to
become a part of the system that is doing the experiencing. I could
attempt to find out what it is like to be a bat by interfacing with a
bat's brain (and then the bat would also find out what it is like to
be me). An objection to this, however, is that I would not be finding
out what it is like to be a bat, but rather a bat-human hybrid, which
may be quite different. And there is no obvious way I can see to find
out what it is like to be a more alien system such as a thermostat,
for example.

> You and Stathis keep talking about separating consciousness from behavior.
> If we are talking about real glutamate vs zombie glutamate, you must agree
> that real glutamate can behave the way it does, because of it's intrinsic
> physical glutamate properties.


> Where as, even though zombie glutamate can
> behave the same way, it can only do so if it has interpretation hardware
> that interprets that which, by definition does not have glutamate
> properties, as if it did.  So this proves it is possible to reproduce zombie
> glutamate (or zombie functional isomorph, if you must) behavior, without
> consciousness,

That's begging the question: my contention is that if the glutamate
substitute can mimic all the properties of glutamate relevant to brain
function, then it will necessarily also contribute to consciousness in
whatever way natural glutamate does. The function of glutamate in the
brain is to bind to glutamate receptors and change their conformation,
thus triggering a series of events in the postsynaptic neuron.
Glutamate has other properties, for example if you mix it with
potassium nitrate and light it you can make fireworks, but those
properties are not relevant to brain functioning and you can ignore
them if making a glutamate substitute.

> um I mean without real glutamate intrinsic properties (hint:
> these are the same thing).  So I don't understand why both of you seem to be
> so completely missing the obvious?  It seems to me that both of you continue
> to completely ignore these simple obvious facts?

Well, to me it also seems that you are missing the obvious (and John
also, and he actually agrees with me!). The obvious is this: if you
try to make zombie glutamate you will fail, because if the substitute
glutamate has the relevant functional properties (i.e. it binds to
glutamate receptors and changes their conformation) then it will
necessarily also replicate any role natural glutamate plays in
consciousness. For if it were possible to make substitute glutamate
that performed the same as natural glutamate but did not replicate
natural glutamate's role in consciousness, then you could create a
being lacking an aspect of consciousness (likely a very big aspect,
since glutamate is so widespread in the brain) but behaving normally
and believing that they feel normal. I have repeated the last sentence
many times in many different ways but it doesn't seem to get through.
Maybe it is because you think that the functional isomorph of
glutamate would NOT necessarily result in normal behaviour? But then
it wouldn't be a functional isomorph! Maybe you think the functional
isomorph would result in normal behaviour but consciousness would
still be altered? But then there would be a decoupling between
consciousness and behaviour: the subject could be blind, or in
terrible pain, and his mouth would of its own accord smile and make
noises indicating that everything was fine!

Stathis Papaioannou

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