[ExI] Fwd: Mental Phenomena

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Fri Jan 31 07:10:01 UTC 2020

On Fri, 31 Jan 2020 at 14:06, Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> OK, here are a few of the more important things you are missing.  You said
> I would say:
> “Finally, there is the actual conscious experience, such as seeing the
> redness of the strawberry.”  I would not say: “see the redness”.  There
> are two ways to know about the same physical facts.  1. To objectively
> perceive them through a cause and effect chain of different physical
> events.  You don’t “ignore” the different physical qualities of all these
> intermediate things, you just think of all these different things in a
> substrate independent way, thinking or interpreting each of them as if they
> are only representing “red” instead of modeling how they are physically
> nothing like red.

Here I don't  quite understand what you mean by 'thinking or interpreting
each of them as if they are only representing “red” instead of modeling how
they are physically nothing like red'. If glutamate has a redness qualia
property, and I only look at glutamate's chemical composition, solubility,
density and so on, am I 'interpreting' glutamate as 'only representing
"red"'? What I would like to do is consider all the properties of glutamate
EXCEPT the postulated redness property. Let's say it's there, but we just
ignore it, for the sake of the argument.

> The second way to know about physics is to directly subjectively
> experience them.  The first is the “objective” way, requiring lots of
> interpretation, which can be mistaken or a seeming.  The second is the
> direct subjective way, which can’t be mistaken and there is no
> interpretation.  Physical redness is just a physical quality which we can
> directly experience and are objectively describing, when we abstractly
> describe glutamate reacting in a synapse, possibly including the way you
> abstractly describe glutamate as changing the shape of the receptor.

The use of the word "interpretation" is confusing. If I say "glutamate has
a density of 1.46 g/cm^3" is that an objective observation, and if so what
am I "interpreting" when I make it? And when you say it could be "mistaken
or a seeming" do you just mean that my scales might be calibrated
incorrectly, and hence the real density might actually be 1.53 g/cm^3?

The use of the word "abstract" is confusing. Do you just mean "objective"?

The contrast of "objectively describing" and "abstractly describe" is
confusing. It seems that by "objectively describing" you mean what I would
call "subjectively describing", and what you call "abstractly describe" is
what I would call "objectively describe".

Next: “from here on I get a bit lost. It seems to me that you are saying
> that since redness is a physical property of glutamate, it must have
> physical effects, and therefore it is not possible changing it would leave
> the qualia and behavior `unchanged.”
> The thing that leads you astray, is you interpret what I’m trying to say
> as if glutamate and redness are separate things.  You are clearly saying it
> here in a way that separates these two.   They are not separate in any
> way.  Objectively, you see the glycine firing, instead of glutamate,
> resulting in you saying: That is not red.  Subjectively, you directly
> experience this same physics as redness, or greenness, enabling you to say
> what color they are.  The objective and subjective facts are all the same
> thing causing you to say: “That is not red.”  Saying redness causes you to
> say: “that is red” is the same thing as saying glutamate, (possibly
> changing the shape of the receptor) causes you to say: “That is red”.

I think you are saying: if glutamate in fact has redness as a fundamental
property, then subjectively when glutamate is released in your own synapses
you will see red, and objectively if you see glutamate released in someone
else's synapses (without directly sharing their experiences) you can
confidently say that they are experiencing redness; and analogously for
glycine and greenness.

I object to the statement that 'Saying redness causes you to say: “that is
red” is the same thing as saying glutamate, (possibly changing the shape of
the receptor) causes you to say: “That is red”'. This is because changing
the shape of the receptor provides a complete causal explanation for saying
"that is red". That is, an advanced scientist could examine the glutamate
and associated systems without any understanding of what redness is, what
qualia are, what human language is and so on, and predict that the sounds
"that is red" will come out of the subject's mouth. Because redness is not
necessary to predict what the system will do, it cannot be included in the
list of causal properties. At a higher level of description it is true that
the subject reported seeing red due to the redness, but not at the low
level where the physical interactions occur.

> And you completely missed the second necessary half of what I model
> consciousness as being.  This is strong evidence that you are completely
> blind to this half.  And it is THIS half that reveals all the problems in
> the neural substitution argument.  In my view, this is a necessary part of
> having composite qualitative experience or consciousness which we
> absolutely have.  When you do the neural substitution in the way you do, it
> completely leaves out this necessary half of the functionality and this is
> part of the cause of all the craziness and “hard problems” that don’t make
> any sense.

I guess you are referring to the binding system, but I have said before
that any function whatsoever of neurons can be substituted leaving
behaviour exactly the same.

> Oh, and you also completely left out the fact that when doing the neural
> substitution without this necessary half of the functionality, you can
> prove that nothing, not even “functionality” nor “magic” can have a redness
> quality, for the same reasons glutamate can’t have redness.  You just never
> notice this, because no matter where I try to put redness to make you
> happy, even if this is op amp functionality or magic, you change the
> subject and redefine everything as if the redness is someplace else, in the
> system.  You never model what it is that has the redness quality, even if
> it is functionality.  Because, if you did, I could prove to you that it
> can’t be that, for the same faulty logic causing you to think it can’t be
> glutamate.

This may be hard to conceptualise, but the redness must be in the minimal
system that is required for redness, and not localised in any part of the
system. This might be clearer if we consider something like the
understanding of language. The entire system needs to be working, not just
one part of the system for a particular word.

> What I’m trying to say is IF you include anything that could have a
> redness quality we can directly experience, and if you would include the
> second half of the necessary part of consciousness, and if you adequately
> modeled both of these parts in your neural substitution, not only would
> everything be obvious about what is going on, it would become clear how
> various slight of hands can be done with this kind of substitution, to make
> it appear that the neural substitution is doing one thing, when in reality
> it could be physically or subjectively very different.

I don't recall you giving a yes or no answer when I have asked if you think
replacing glutamate with an analogue that affects glutamate receptors in
exactly the same way would result in: (1) a change to the behaviour an
external observer would see, if he were free to do any tests or ask any
questions; or (2) a change to the redness qualia.

> I guess another part I’m not stressing enough (trying present things from
> your point of view) is the prediction that no such neural substitution
> would ever be remotely possible, except in only the most contrived and
> absurd ways.  Once you got to a pixel neuron, presenting glutamate to the
> binding system, enabling you to be directly aware of it with all the other
> physical pixels and their physical qualities as one composite experience,
> the only way to do a switch, in a way that would even remotely behave the
> same, is if you, in one atomic switching operation, rebound everything,
> including all memories and names of things that are red with whatever you
> substitute redness with.  I’ve tried to describe exactly this, many times
> in a neural substitution where the binding system is a single neuron –
> resulting in exactly all the switching being made, in one atomic swap
> between the real and the simulated.  In other words, when the binding
> system was replaced, in one atomic switch, there would be dancing (between
> red and green or absent) qualia.  The only way it would work is if you
> replaced everything, all at once, and remove any knowledge from the system
> including that the word redness, before the switch, was bound to redness,
> while after it is now bound to greenness (or the word red).  To say nothing
> of how hard it would be to get something that represented red things with
> the word red, to behave as if it’s knowledge really was physical redness,
> instead of an abstract word.
> Does any of this seem like evidence as to where the problem is, as it
> seems like evidence of the problem to me?

I don't understand the problem here. If glutamate is replaced with a
glutamate analogue then everything will work exactly the same, and if you
do this with all the neurons in the brain, all the neurons will function
exactly the same. I think you still imagine that removing the glutamate
will somehow change the behaviour of the binding neurons, or the
description of the qualia, or something; but it cannot, since that would be
a logical contradiction given the initial assumptions. I am sure either you
or I are missing something here.

Stathis Papaioannou
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