[ExI] Fwd: Is Artificial Life Conscious?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Mon Apr 25 20:17:58 UTC 2022

Hi Brent,

I appreciate your quick response and for getting to the heart of the issue.
My replies are in-line below:

On Mon, Apr 25, 2022 at 1:43 PM Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Jason,
> Yes, Stathis and I have gone over these same arguments, in a gazillion
> different ways, for years, still unable to convince the other.  I agree
> with most everything you say, but it is all entirely missing the point.
> I think you get to the core of the issue with your:
> "First, I would like you to deeply consider for a moment the question
> 'What is matter?'"
I am curious what your intuition says on this? Do you think that there are
intrinsic properties of matter (beyond its third-person observable
behavior) which is somehow necessary for consciousness or quale such as red?

> The issue is with one of these assumptions:
> "1. Given the Church-Turing Thesis, any finitely describable process can
> be perfectly replicated by an appropriately programmed Turing Machine"
> The isus is that any description of redness (our claim that something is
> redness) tells you nothing of the nature of redness, without a dictionary
> pointing to an example of redness.

Yes this is the "symbol grounding problem". All communication, of anything
(even so-called objective properties like mass, distance, time durations,
etc.) require ostensive (pointing to) definitions. Since no two minds can
ever share that common reference frame, and point out to the same quale,
ostensive definitions of these quale, and hence meaningful communication
concerning them, is impossible (since there can never be a verifiable
common foundation).

> This is true for the same reason you can't communicate to a blind person
> what redness is like, no matter how many words you use.
> Stathis always makes this same claim:
> "It is true that functionalism cannot be falsified. But not being
> falsifiable is a property of every true theory."
> no matter how many times I point out that if that is true, no matter what
> you say redness is, it can't be that, either, because you can use the same
> zombie or neural substitution argument and claim it can't be that either.

I don't follow this point, could you elaborate?

> All you prove is that qualia aren't possible.

I do not follow how this conclusions was reached.

>   And since we know, absolutely, It is a physical fact that I can
> experience redness,

What does "physical" add to the above sentence? To me it seems redundant
and only adds to the confusion (as we still haven't settled what is meant
by physics or matter).

> this just proves your assumptions (about the nature of matter) are
> incorrect.

I don't see why you think the assumption of functionalism leads to a denial
of qualia/consciousness.

>   To say nothing about all the other so-called 'hard problems' that emerge
> with that set of assumptions.
> We can abstractly describe and predict how matter "whatever it is" will
> behave.  But when it comes to intrinsic colorness qualities or qualia, like
> redness and greenness, you've got to point to some physical example of
> something that has that redness quality.  And without that, there is no
> possible way to define the word "redness", let alone experience redness.

A shared physical realm is necessary to ostensively define properties like
mass, distance, and time durations. Two beings, kept apart in two different
universes but allowed to communicate bit strings back and forth could never
reach any agreement on how long a "meter" is.

This is the situation we are in with qualia. Two minds are in a sense, like
two partially isolated simulated universes, with an inability to ever share
the meaning of what they mean when they refer to their red experiences,
short of an Avatar-like neural link to temporarily bridge their two
independent and isolated mental realities.

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