[ExI] Consciousness as 'brute fact' and meta-skepticism

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Sat Feb 8 13:03:55 UTC 2020

On Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 9:16 PM Will Steinberg via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

*> The experiment would be to locate the precise neural configuration that
> encodes the quale and aversion behavior pair in the parent, then the
> precise hereditary information that encodes the pair, and then the precise
> neural configuration that encodes the pair in the child.  Then you do it
> with various different olfactory qualia. *

No you could not! You could not even show that a olfactory qualia existed
or that any qualia existed other than your own. All you'd show is that
certain neural configurations are associated with certain behaviors. You
can only perform scientific experiments on things you can observe, and you
can observe behavior but you can't observe qualia.

> *this would be to demonstrate that there IS some innate code that reality
> uses to produce qualia. *

Change that last word to "behavior" and I would agree.

*> Now you will probably say "well I can only verify my own qualia"*


> *> but that solipsism is literally pointless and does not contribute
> anything. *

Yep. And that is precisely why qualia research is literally pointless and
has not contributed anything in the last thousand years and there is no
prospect it will do so in the next thousand.

* > You might be a brain in a vat*

I don't know about a vat but I'm certainly a brain in a box made of bone.

* > These experiments make the simple assumption that other beings
> experience qualia just like you.  *

I make the exact same assumption that you do every waking minute of
everyday of my life, but like me you don't assume all other beings
experience qualia like we do, not even all beings of the species homo
sapiens, not all the time. You don't assume your fellow human is conscious
if he is sleeping, or under anesthesia, or dead. Why? Because like me you
assume consciousness is an inevitable consequence (or side effect from
Evolution's point of view) of intelligent behavior. That's also the only
reason neither of us believe that rocks or trees are conscious, they're
just not very smart, or at least they don't behave as if they are.

*> I'm trying to be as practical as I can with consciousness here. *

And that means concentrating on behavior, if you want to be scientific
there is simply no alternative.

> > *The solipsist shit is annoying*

I think solipsism is annoying as shit too, and that's why I'm not a
consciousness researcher, he has no way to avoid running straight into it
on day one of his research.

 John K Clark
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