[ExI] Mental Phenomena

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Sat Jan 18 22:23:23 UTC 2020

On Sat, Jan 18, 2020 at 4:27 PM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> What makes anyone think that a machine can experience anything?

Intelligent behavior. When they are behaving in that way I believe my
fellow human beings are experiencing something, and when they are not
behaving in that way, such as when they are sleeping or under anesthesia or
dead, I believe they are not experiencing anything.

> > Do we know that?  I don't think so.

What's with this "we" business? I can only speak for myself but no, I don't
"know" that, I don't claim this is a rock solid logical principle that
always works, it's just a rule of thumb. But it's all I've got and all I'll
ever have so it will just have to do.

> > If enough humans say that they are experiencing a vision of a
> strawberry, I'd take their word for it.

Although not provably correct that's sounds like a perfectly reasonable
course of action to me, after all in the real world we can almost never be
certain of anything but we must proceed nevertheless and do the best we
can. So if enough AI's said the same thing, particularly if they were
vastly smarter than me, I take their word they were experiencing a vision
of a strawberry too.

> > I would assume not all would lie.  I assume nothing about a machine
> except that it is not a living thing and cannot be.

Life is notoriously difficult to define and there is no reason to even try
to do so because that's not really what we're interested in, what we're
talking about is intelligence and its accompanying phenomenon
consciousness. Of course I don't have a definition of "intelligent
behavior" that's worth a damn either but that's OK because I have something
much better than definitions, examples. Intelligent behavior is the sort of
activity that Einstein engaged in.

If you don't like intelligent behavior as a marker for consciousness what
is the alternative? Only humans that have the same skin color as me are
conscious? Only humans that have the same sex as me are conscious? Only
entities whose data processing center is wet and squishy like mine is can
be conscious, not dry and hard like a computer's is?

John K Clark
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