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

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Sun Feb 9 13:53:55 UTC 2020

On Sat, Feb 8, 2020 at 7:26 PM Will Steinberg via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> * > Other brains are definitively conscious.  If they're not, then there
> is no reason why mine would be either.*

But there is a reason. Other people's brains are similar to your brain but
not identical, if they were then they'd be you, and in biology we know that
very tiny differences can lead to huge consequences. The human genome has 4
bases and 3 billion base pairs, but a change in just one of those 3 billion
in your DNA, a change from adenine to thymine, results in a protein that
has the valine amino acid in it rather than Glutamic acid. And that
difference, one change in 3 billion, is the difference between somebody who
has sickle cell anemia and somebody who doesn't have that painful life
threatening disease.  Unless you are an identical twin (as my sisters are)
the chances are overwhelming that nobody else in the entire history of the
world has the same 3 billion pair base arrangement that you do, so it would
be reasonable for you to conclude that somewhere in that 3 billion you have
a point mutation that enables you to be conscious that nobody else has, so
it would be reasonable to conclude you could be the only conscious person
who ever lived.

Well.... it would be reasonable if you ignored intelligent behavior, which
would be a very unreasonable thing to do.

 > *This is true enough to me to be axiomatic.  *

I would bet money you don't take it as an axiom that all other people are
conscious ALL THE TIME, you don't think they're conscious when they're
sleeping or under anesthesia or dead. But why? Because your axiom has
nothing to do with neurons or brains, your axiom is really that
intelligent behavior
implies consciousness, and everybody on Earth uses this axiom and has been
doing so for far longer than they knew anything about neurons or even
realized that brains had something to do with thinking.

*> There is no point in getting caught up with this. *

I agree there is no point in getting caught up with this, not unless you
ignore intelligence and behavior and concentrate exclusively on
consciousness, then like it or not you run straight into it and produce
nothing but a big splat. And that's why philosophers have made precisely
zero progress on this since the time of Plato.

John K Clark
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