[ExI] Definition of Consciousness (Was Re: My guesses about GPTs consciousness)

efc at swisscows.email efc at swisscows.email
Mon Apr 17 21:39:40 UTC 2023

Hello Brent,

Thank you for the link, I've never seen this site before. I like the tree 
structure, but sadly it seemed a bit empty at some of the nodes.

As for consensus tracking I'm a bit skeptical about it, since I'm not 
comfortable solving philosophical problems through consensus. In my 
experience, many positions manage to entrench themselves in a kind of 
stalemate after decades or milennia, and at the end of the day, your 
values tend to dictate which strengths and weaknesses in which arguments 
you are drawn to and judge to be the most important. Being raised in an 
extreme consensus culture, there are few things I dislike more than 
consensus. ;)

Now when it comes to your definition:

"Computationally bound subjective qualities like redness, grenness, 

I'm afraid I do not understand what it means, nor how it is related to a 
definition of consciousness. Could you please unpack each term in 
"Computationally bound subjective qualities"? I do not understand what 
this means.

When it comes to the definition I found at the top of wikipedia in the 
article on consciousness, let me point out that it is not mine, nor am I 
sure is it my personal definition, but just a suggested starting point.

But I do not think it is recursive, notice the ",". So let me try and 
explain it to the best of my understanding and interpretation:

"Consciousness, at its simplest, is sentience and awareness of internal 
and external existence."

Let's look at the components:

Sentience: Having a faculty, or faculties, of sensation and perception.
Awareness: Knowledge and understanding that something is happening or 

So to me it seems, that for us to be able to talk about consciousness in 
any form of organism, it would have to have the ability of sensing things 
or perceiving things. In additiona to this, it must also be able to store 
some kind of knowledge and have some kind of understanding that things 
happen around it and that other things exist.

It must be able to keep internal state and awareness of its surroundings.

That's what I understand based on the very simple starting point on that 
wikipedia page.

Last but not least, looking through canonizer, I do think 
consciousness is approachable by science, but I also think that I am 
not buying the Representational Qualia approach.

I'm not saying I agree, but I've read some Daniel Dennett and I think 
perhaps that he might be a good starting point to me, when figuring out 
which theory I subscribe to.

Hmm, maybe I just added more confusion here than I sought to clear up. ;)

Best regards,

On Mon, 17 Apr 2023, Brent Allsop via extropy-chat wrote:

> Hi Daniel,
> Thanks for working on building and tracking consensus around a definition of consciousness.  This is so important.  That's exactly
> what we're working on doing over on the consensus building and tracking system Canonizer.com.  While there are competing camps, there
> is an emerging consensus camp: Representational Qualia Theory. It defines consciousness or sentience as:
>         Computationally bound subjective qualities like redness, grenness, warmth.
> This definition distinguishes between abstract systems (use a word like 'red' to represent information, isn't like anything and
> requires a dictionary) which can be functionally equivalent.
> and  Phenomenal systems, which represent information directly on subjective qualities like redness.  Sentience is like something.
> Your definition seems a bit recursive, consciousness is sentience?
> If you define sentience as "awareness of internal and external existence", then you would consider a system with abstract knowledge
> of internal and external things, which isn't like anything to be conscious or sentient?
> On Mon, Apr 17, 2023 at 4:51 AM efc--- via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>       On Mon, 17 Apr 2023, Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat wrote:
>       > On Sun, Apr 16, 2023 at 7:05 AM <efc at swisscows.email> wrote:
>       >       Hello Rafal,
>       >
>       >       What is your definition of consciousness? It would be much easier to
>       >       understand, if I also knew yoru definition of consciousness.
>       >
>       >
>       > ### Oh, noes, this question is too difficult, I cry uncle.
>       >
>       > But, it's this thing that I am and that has other things in it that come and go. 
>       >
>       > It breathes fire into the equations. 
>       >
>       > It's the realest of real things. 
>       >
>       > It's the light that illuminates the void,
>       >
>       > You know it when you have it. Lots of interesting research can be done and reasonable discussions can proceed without a
>       definition,
>       > so let's not spoil the poetry.
>       Don't spoil the fun! ;) No, the reason I ask is that many here talk
>       about consciousness but if we do not talk about the same thing, it is
>       easy to talk past each other. Even if our definition overlap to a
>       significant extent, small errors can compound.
>       Taht's why I find it difficult to follow sometimes, because I of course
>       evaluate arguments in terms of my definition.
>       Now, let me apply my weapon to myself! ;)
>       How do I define consciousness?
>       For the sake of this discussion, let me propose "Consciousness, at its
>       simplest, is sentience and awareness of internal and external
>       existence." (wikipedia) and then open up to the list to refine it. ;) I
>       doubt we'll reach anything close to resembling consensus, but I hope
>       that we'll leave with a better definition than before.
>       Best regards,
>       Daniel
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>       extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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