[ExI] Why stop at glutamate?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Fri Apr 14 09:17:55 UTC 2023

On Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 10:52 PM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 8:20 PM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023, 10:04 PM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> Hi Jason,
>>> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 5:56 PM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 4:17 PM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>> Hi Gadersd,
>>>>> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 2:35 PM Gadersd via extropy-chat <
>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>> Brent, where is the glutamate quality of electrons, neutrons, and
>>>>>> protons? Which electron has the redness quality?
>>>>>> Electrons behave the way they do, because they have a quality you
>>>>> have never experienced before. (Note:  I'm a pan qualityist. a
>>>>> panpsychist minus the pan computational binding ;)
>>>>> There exists higher order structure that doesn’t exist in the
>>>>>> component parts, hence the phrase “more than the sum of the parts."
>>>>> I guess that would be a hypothetical possibility.  I try to
>>>>> always point out  that some day, someone will experience redness without
>>>>> glutamate, falsifying the prediction that it is glutamate that behaves the
>>>>> way it does, because of its redness quality.  Once glutamate is falsified,
>>>>> they will try something else, possibly including something that is the sum
>>>>> of some configuration of parts, or ANYTHING.  The reason we use glutamate
>>>>> is because it is so easily falsifiable.  Falsifiability is what we are
>>>>> missing with the qualitative nature of consciousness, and ease of
>>>>> falsifiability is the reason we are using glutamate as an easy stand-in for
>>>>> whatever redness turns out to be.
>>>>> I just wish people with these kinds of "qualities arise from
>>>>> <whatever>"  theories would explicitly acknowledge (instead of ignoring),
>>>>> what everyone knows absolutely, that color qualities are real, and then
>>>>> provide some example of some kind of "function" or some configuration of
>>>>> parts, the sum total of which could be pointed to and say: "THAT  is
>>>>> redness."  at least in a way that would pass the laugh test?
>>>> You ask of functionalism more than you have achieved for your own
>>>> theory: you have yet to name what molecule is responsible for redness which
>>>> won't be falsified.
>>>> The function for redness is a function that is found in the neural
>>>> network of a normally sighted person's brain (likely within but perhaps not
>>>> limited to the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colour_centre). It is
>>>> likely not anything rudimentary like a square root function, it will be a
>>>> function able to (at a minimum) discriminate among millions of possible
>>>> color values.
>>> Not sure what you mean by "won't be falsified", as I have tried to say I
>>> fully expect the prediction that it is glutamate that has the
>>> redness quality to be falsified.
>>> But that something else, will be reliably demonstrated to always have
>>> the same  redness quality, and when it does,  just substitute glutamate for
>>> whatever that is.
>> Yes, that thing, whatever it is, is still undefined/unknown to your
>> theory. Why then do you require functionalists to give an answer when your
>> theory, at present, doesn't have one?
> Oh OK.  Yes.  I agree with this.  I'm just trying to say that physical
> stuff has color qualities.  For example, it is intuitive to us to think of
> the strawberry as having a red quality, and because of that quality, it
> reflects 700 nm light.  I'm saying that is the right way to think about it,
> it is just a different set of objectively observable properties, which is
> the redness quality.  Whereas, if someone is making the same claim about
> some function, then give me any example of any function which would result
> in someone having a redness experience, that isn't laphable.

Okay I attempt to show that below.

>> And are you saying that physical stuff doesn't have color properties?
>>> And that functions do?
>> I believe the property of color is a mathematical property, not a
>> physical one. Math subsumes all of physics. For any physical property you
>> can think of, there is a mathematical object with that property. Functions,
>> like mathematics, are sufficiently general that they can define any
>> describable relation between any set of mathematical objects. And as I said
>> before, properties are nothing other than relations. A function then, is a
>> near universal tool to realize any imaginable/definable property: be they
>> physical properties, mathematical properties, and yes, even color
>> properties.
>> If a function can discriminate among millions of possible color values,
>>> it would achieve that by representing them with millions of distinguishable
>>> physical properties, right?
>> It hardly matters what they are, so long as they're distinguishable, and
>> related to each other in the same ways colors are to each other.
>> i.e. the function would arise from, or be implemented on, the physical
>>> properties, you seem to be saying that the physical properties would arise
>>> from the function?
>> Functional properties exist on a level that's separate from and
>> independent of physical properties. Think of the properties or some code
>> written in Python. The properties of that function are not physical
>> properties. Nor do the properties of that function depend on physical
>> properties. So long as you had a python interpreter there, you could run
>> that python code in any universe, even ones with an alien physics. Physical
>> properties never enter the picture.
> OK, yea.  You're talking about logical (non physical) platonic facts,
> right?

We could call them that. I think "mathematical properties" is the most
general term though, as they cover not just logical properties, but any
conceivable physical ones too.

Examples of mathematical properties:
- evenness (in reference to numbers)
- squareness (in reference to triangles)
- dimensionality (in reference to spaces)
- charge (in reference to charged particles in our universe)
- redness (in reference to visual experiences in normally sighted humans in
our universe)

Mathematical objects and their properties can be as simple or complex as we
need them to be. There is a mathematical object that is indistinguishable
from our physical universe. It has all the same properties our physical
universe has. If redness is a property of glutamate then the "mathematical
glutamate" found in the mathematical object that's identical with our
universe has the redness property too.

What I'm talking about is, you are doing a neuro substitution, and you get
> to that first pixel of subjective knowledge that has a redness property.
> Let's even assume it is a particular complex neural pattern (call it P1),
> not glutamate, which you can point to, and say: "THAT" is the subjective
> redness quality of that pixel.
> You seem to be arguing that consciousness would not be substrate dependent
> on that P1 quality, and that you could substitute that with glutamate, P29,
> or anything else, and it would still result in a redness experience?

Functionalism in the most basic terms, is the idea that minds are defined
by what the brain does, not by what it is. Think of this analogy for a car:
let's say we replace the brake fluid in a car with an alternate liquid that
functions similarly enough that the brakes work as well before as after the
replacement. Since the brake fluid still serves it's functional role we can
still call it a brake fluid even though it may be  of an entirely different
chemical composition. The composition of the parts, is not relevant so long
as they preserve the relationships among all the parts. Overall behavior of
the system remains unchanged.

So your question of whether we can replace P1 with glutamate or P29 depends
on whether glutamate and P29 play the same role and have the same relations
as P1 has. If not, they aren't valid candidates for substitution.

They said they might work if we replace more parts of the brain. For
example, let's say we arrange a bunch of objects such that their position
in a machine determines their relations to all the other pieces, so long as
every object has the same mass. Then we can make this machine work by
putting identically sized glass marbles throughout the machine. We could
not then replace one marble with a lighter plastic bottle cap. However, if
we strip out all the marbles and replace them all with plastic bottle caps
this will restore the relations within the machine and preserve it's

> How could any platonic, or mathematical fact, produce an experience with a
> redness quality, in a way that you could replace it with P1, and the person
> would still say it was the same quality as P1, even though it wasn't P1?

Either by changing P1 with another function let's call it "P1a" which
though internally it has a different implementation or details, it "hides"
them by virtue of those fine grain details not being relevant at the level
P1 relates to other parts in the system.

For example, let's say we're dealing with NAND memory storing a bit, which
it does so by holding some charge of electrons together. From a functional
point of view, it makes no difference if the elections are spin up or spin
down in the x axis. Thus we might substitute a spin up electron with a spin
down one, and the memory state of the NAND chip will remain unchanged. The
system doesn't care about the spin state of the electrons, only how many
electrons are there.

>From a functional/logical point of view you can consider different possible
sorting algorithms. Quick sort and Merge sort are two of the most commonly
used sorting algorithms (or sorting functions). They have similar
performance properties and perform an identical task, but they have and use
very different internal processes to accomplish their sorting. It these
internal properties are not important to how other parts of the system use
the sort function, then quick sort and merge sort are examples of two
different, but interchangeable functions.

Whether or not then fine grain details of some internal function are
relevant to a particular state of consciousness is, as I mentioned before,
unknowable, as no program can determine its own code or implementation
based on how it perceives itself. This follows from the Church-Turing
thesis.  And a clear example is with Virtual Machines. An Atari game, from
it's point of view, has no ability to tell if it's running on an original
Atari system or some emulator in a modern PC.

Thus it will always require some degree of faith, whether you could take a
particular functional substitution of some part (or whole) of your brain
and remain unchanged subjectively. The finer grain details you go and
include, the more likely it is to succeed, but we don't necessarily know
how deep to go, and when it becomes safe to abstract or ignore details
below a certain level.


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