[ExI] Mental Phenomena

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Sat Feb 1 13:42:57 UTC 2020

On 01/02/2020 00:01, Brent Allsop wrote:
> On Fri, Jan 31, 2020 at 12:36 PM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat 
> <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org 
> <mailto:extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>> wrote:
>     >All experimentalists, today, only use one word for all things
>     red.  If they detect any physical differences in the brains of
>     people percieving red, they "correct" for this only thinking of
>     all of it as red.
>     Well, I can't speak for "all experimentalists, today", but I doubt
>     if they fail to understand the difference between the red light
>     entering the eye, and the internal representation of whatever red
>     thing is seen, including the abstract mental category 'redness'.
>     In fact, I can't see how they could fail to. Are you sure you
>     understand /them/? I don't really see how anyone who studies the
>     brain can really think of the representations of sensory
>     information as being /the same thing/ as the external signals that
>     drives them. That would imply they think there is red light inside
>     the brain, everytime that brain thinks about red light. I'm
>     certain nobody seriously thinks that.
> I challenge you to find (I've been searching for some time) any peer 
> reviewed journal article on perception, which uses more than one word 
> for all things "red".  I haven't managed to find one, yet.

I think this is because it's so universally understood that the 
processes in the brain are not the same thing as the stimuli that 
provoke them, that there's no real need to use different terminology. I 
certainly understand the difference between "The pink ball" and "the 
perception of pink". Granted, it might be good to be more careful with 
the terminology, but I doubt people are 'qualia-blind' as you keep 
saying, just because they aren't as careful with their terminology as you.

>     >And that is the only reason, today, nobody can tell is the colour
>     of anything.
>     I don't follow that. What do you mean by "nobody can tell the
>     colour of anything"?
> When we look out at the world, we see a very colorful world. But as 
> we've been talking about, none of those colors are properties of the 
> world out there.  And my redness could be like your greeness, so whos 
> red?  Those colors are a property of something, maybe some kind of 
> process as you say, in our brain. But nobody can tell us which of all 
> our descriptions of stuff in the brain, is a description of redness.

So you're saying that the experience of colours in our minds is not the 
same thing as the actual colours in the outside world (obviously), and 
no-one currently can tell what's going on in the brain when someone sees 
a specific colour.

Quite right. At least at present (although I wouldn't use the word 
'property' for the brain processes, as that's a bit misleading). As I 
said in an earlier post, I expect that at some point, our ability to see 
what's going on in the brain will be advanced enough to tell when 
someone's seeing red (and the difference between seeing a red object, 
remembering a red object, and imagining a red object).

> As it indicates in both of the images in "Representational Qualia 
> Theory 
> <https://canonizer.com/topic/88-Representational-Qualia/6#statement>" 
> everything out side of the head is in black and white. This is because 
> all objective information is abstract, devoid of any color information.

Nonsense. Abstract information can't represent colour? All information 
processing in our brains is abstract. We experience colours. Therefore, 
abstract information can represent colours.

>   The only thing of any color, is the color of our knowledge of the world.

Er, what?
Knowledge doesn't have colours.
"The colour of our knowledge of the world" literally doesn't mean anything.
You might want to rephrase that, so it makes sense.

> Redness must be a quality of some set of physics.

No, it mustn't.
Redness is not a quality. I'm not even sure what "a quality of some set 
of physics" means, to be honest. I suspect it doesn't mean anything in 
the real world.

It makes sense to say "Redness (not forgetting that 'redness' is a 
higher-level mental category than the thing we're actually talking about 
here, which is more like the experience of one specific red colour with 
a specific hue, saturation and lightness, but let's allow 'redness' to 
be shorthand for that) is a certain 'set of physics' (IOW, a certain 
phenomenon in the brain of a specific individual at a specific time), 
but we currently don't know exactly what that phenomenon is, in exact 
terms (or more accurately, what that set of phenomena are, as there is 
almost certainly a lot going on that contributes to this experience of 
Strawberry (Hue 0, Sat 67%,  etc.)).

So your statement boils down to "Redness must be some process going on 
in a brain". Not exactly an earth-shattering statement, is it? And a lot 
easier to understand than the original version.

> Of all our objective descriptions of stuff in the brain, one of those 
> is a description of redness.

Well, not yet, but potentially, one day.
I expect it will be a description that isn't all that easy to decipher, 
as well. It will necessarity relate to a large number of processes, and 
will be different (possibly wildly different) in different brains, and 
likely restricted to a single point in time.

>     I can experience redness, but there is no such 'thing' as redness.
> I would disagree with this. There must be something physical (even if 
> some kind of process) which is what we directly experience as a single 
> pixel of redness.  And all of our pixels of colorness must be able to 
> be computationally bound together into a composite qualitative 
> experience of a strawberry, and such.  Certainly you would agree that 
> you could objectively observe, and fully describe, whatever this 
> "process" is, and be able to objectively describe a change to this 
> process, which we experienced as redness?
>     In other words, redness is an experience, a process, not a thing
>     in its own right, independent of the brain that creates it.
> This sounds like the popular consensus, that redness "arises" from 
> some process.

Not quite.
I'd say that, rather than it arising from a process (or a complex set of 
processes), it IS a process (or complex ...).

>   The problem is, I bet you can't give any actual objective 
> falsifiable description of what kind of process would have a redness qulia

Of course not.
As I said, not yet. We simply don't know enough yet, about how all the 
millions of neural circuits in the brain interact, how they relate to 
our sensory inputs and memories and inherited default neural patterns, 
and characteristics of synapses, and at least a dozen other things, that 
constitute the experience of a quale.

>     I think this is where we differ most. You think that 'redness' is
>     a thing that has an existence independent of a mind. Am I right?
> Objective descriptions of stuff in the brain provide no information 
> about the color they are describing.

That doesn't answer my question.

Sufficiently detailed descriptions of the stuff going on in the brain, 
coupled with enough knowledge of how to interpret them, would absolutely 
provide all the information needed about things like colours being 
perceived. We are just a long way from being able to extract the 
descriptions and interpret them properly.

>   Al I"m saying is one of those descriptions, even if it is some kind 
> of process, that is what we directly experience as redness.

What I'm saying is that it's the process itself that IS our experience 
of 'redness' or whatever. There is no distinction between observer and 
observed, there is just the process.

What is often overlooked, I think, is that this 'process' is enormously 
complex, and involves many interlinked patterns of information. John 
Clark is fond of saying that examples are more important than rules, and 
I think this is exactly the case here. Examples of strawberry-red 
things, for instance, and all the associated memories and meanings for 
the individual, and mental categories distilled from them and linked to 

What about a child seeing a strawberry for the first time? No memories, 
no names, no associations from the past.
Well, actually that's not true. There will be associations to something 
in their past (a familiar context, what they are wearing, the weather, 
all sorts of things), and they are constantly forming new ones.

Maybe a new-born baby presented with a strawberry will have a 'pure', 
'elemental' strawberry quale? A quale that will forever be embedded in 
the much more complex experiences they have later on? Maybe we can then 
pin it down?

I doubt it. I think the reason we don't remember our very early 
childhood is because there is very little for us /to/ remember. We 
haven't yet built up all the complex associations and memories of 
sensory input to form coherent experiences of what's going on around us. 
There is no meaning yet. It takes a few years for that to develop. 
There's a good reason why babies do little else but waggle their limbs 
randomly and make strange noises.

When an adult sees a strawberry, I'm confident that the patterns in 
their brain are totally different to the ones present when they saw a 
strawberry for the very first time. There will be very little, if 
anything, in common. So where is the 'elemental quale' of 
strawberry-red? It doesn't exist.

> If you could provide a description of a kind of process, from which a 
> redness quality would arize, I'd be happy to substitute that for 
> 'glutamate' as an easily falsifiable candidate for what we directly 
> experience as redness.

Again, wrong phraseology, but I can provide a very generalised 
description of the kinds of process which are the experience of 
'redness'. (As I already have, several times):
Complex, dynamically interacting information patterns in the neuronal 
networks of the brain. I can't give you any more than that, because we 
don't know the details yet.
Not as compact and catchy as 'glutamate', I know, but a lot more realistic.

Is this falsifiable? of course, in principle, once we have enough 
technology and understanding (as previously discussed on this list).

Is it /easily/ falsifiable? No, far from it. We need a lot more 
knowledge and technology. Probably upload-level technology, I suspect. 
Once we have that, though, I'd expect individuals to be able to 
investigate these things for themselves. Having direct access to our own 
thought processes will spark off a massive wave of new ideas and 
technology, I reckon. And a much deeper understanding of what we are and 
how we work.

Ben Zaiboc

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