[ExI] Mental Phenomena

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sat Jan 18 10:27:53 UTC 2020

On Tue, Jan 14, 2020 at 6:05 PM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Here is a hypothesis that is at least theoretically testable: The
> experience of redness is accompanied by the presence of certain neural
> circuits in parts of the visual cortex. (in V8, in the occipital lobe), and
> that temporarily knocking out these circuits (via local electrodes, or a
> drug, or some other means) would prevent the perception of redness (as well
> as all other colours, quite possibly).
> If this was done precisely enough, it would at least demonstrate that the
> perception of colour was dependent on these circuits. If some kind of
> neural interface was developed that could link to precise sets of neurons,
> you could maybe even pinpoint circuits that only affect the perception of a
> specific hue and saturation of redness and not other colours. With enough
> investigation of this kind, you could probably even tease out the entire
> route of a large neural circuit that travels round the visual areas, the
> thalamus and other parts of the brain, and be able to say "this circuit
> here, is redness (Hue 0, Sat 67%) (Strawberry, as it happens). If
> interrupting or disrupting that circuit removes that specific redness quale
> (such that the subject would report that they can't see it, and tests could
> verify that), then you've pinned it down. You now know what that quale
> actually is.

### I think you are on the right track in general but going in the wrong
direction: Qualia are best understood as properties of conscious brains,
rather than low- and mid-level local circuits. Pinpointing which precise
part of a color rosetter in the visual cortex is necessary to trigger
conscious perception of a specific hue doesn't tell you that much. Instead
I think we will understand the problem better once we move up in our level
of analysis, to the detailed workings of whole large-scale networks within
the brain.

Most likely the answer will be a nothingburger, a huge load of details and
a dismissal of the question of "What are qualia, for real?", rather than
something groundbreaking, mystery-busting and spiritually uplifting. It
would be like our modern answer to "What is life?" - which is just a mass
of details about genetics, metabolism, control theory and the like, rather
than the discovery of the mystic "elan vital".

But, who knows? Future neuroscience and AI research will maybe tell.

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