[ExI] are qualia communicable? Was Why stop at glutamate?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Sun Apr 16 14:04:28 UTC 2023

On Sat, Apr 15, 2023 at 4:59 PM Giovanni Santostasi via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Another even deeper mystery that the communicability of qualia is how the
> brain creates an I.
> If you think about it, somehow the qualia is "communicated" among the
> 100,000s or even millions of neurons that are needed to
> experience something like red. By the way, there was some time ago some
> talk about "mother neurons" or single neurons that were activated when a
> particular face was shown, almost implying we have in our brains a neuron
> that activates when we see Brad Pitt. I'm not sure what is the status of
> that line of research (I will look it up) but I don't think any experience
> is associated with the activation of a single neuron.
> Anyway, I'm pretty sure that when we experience something millions of
> neurons are involved.
> Jason, given you know so much about consciousness, how do these neurons
> communicate to each other the experience of red (or anything else)? Somehow
> millions of individual entities come together and say "I see red". I think
> this phenomenon is even more important to understand than qualia.

I should start by saying, I don't have a great answer, and the answer I
will provide is merely speculation. But as I see it, a number of lower
level discriminations can be performed in parallel, and the results of
which can be combined or integrated by a higher level discrimination among
the results of the lower level discriminations. I put together this diagram
to kind of express what I mean here. Note that this shows discriminations
made by the auditory cortex to identify what sound is being heard, and then
also low level discriminations in the visual cortex of parts, which are
then combined by a higher level classifier which is able to use
discriminations of individual parts to perform a discrimination of what
object is being seen. Then a top-most comparison is performed which
compares the sound that is heard with the object that is seen, to
discriminate among possible audiovisual experiences.

[image: Consciousness.png]

> Understanding of this phenomenon comes first because somehow there is some
> sharing and integration of experience among these neurons.

Neurons can represent both logic gates (where and/or/not/sum, etc. are
performed) as well as information channels/wires. I think it is easy to
lose the forest for the trees by focusing on these low level components,
just as one would get lost looking at NAND gates and wires in an integrated
circuit, and asking, "How are video files and sound files transferred
between these NAND gates and wires?" They aren't really, they just perform
the low level computational substrate upon which higher level computational
states may be based, which allow complex processes to deal with and handle
things like video files and sound files.

> The qualia are indeed communicated among these neurons at least. There is
> no point to talk about qualia if we don't understand how an I is created by
> the brain in the first place.

I think qualia are high level "computational states", and various possible
computational states may be realized by the brain, and different
computational states have causal roles in defining subsequent computational
states. Why do our brains create an "integrated" experience? I think there
are strong evolutionary reasons. Consider that if brain sections operated
independently, and one part of the brain recognized a prowling predator,
while another recognized that it was hungry and needed to eat. Without
combining these results, there is no way to prioritize actions, and so
instead of knowing it's time to run, the creature might sit there
continuing to eat, or vacillate like Buridan's ass

> How the activity of many becomes the experience of an I?

I really liked the explanation Ben gave, and I think that is right. When
the model of the world grows large enough to incorporate itself as part of
that model. Also consider that actions performed by the top level (after
all the processing, let's say, to decide to move one's arm) will eventually
re-enter the low level senses as new data: "seeing one's arm move", the
low-level processes wonder: "what made that arm move?" and this gives rise
to our notion of the self.


> On Sat, Apr 15, 2023 at 12:17 PM efc--- via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> On Sat, 15 Apr 2023, Jason Resch via extropy-chat wrote:
>> > We can rewire all of Bob's brain to equal all of Alice's brain. Then we
>> can ensure that when they look at the same strawberry under
>> > the same light they see the same thing. But short of that there will
>> always be doubts, if not an impossibility, that the two can ever
>> > experience the same state of subjective awareness. And the requirement
>> of rewiring a brain I think is proof that qualia aren't
>> > communicable, and why experience is always trapped within and forever
>> bound to the experiencer.
>> You can even argue that time is a component. Space, time, software and
>> hardware, and since the two, regardless of equal hardware and software,
>> cannot occupy the same space at the same time it is impossible to ever
>> be certain.
>> I think I vaguely tried to make this point somewhere "up there" but I
>> think I'll have to reside with Jason on this one.
>> Best regards,
>> Daniel
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