[ExI] Symbol Grounding

Giovanni Santostasi gsantostasi at gmail.com
Wed Apr 26 04:50:12 UTC 2023

I want to make you understand that science has done away with qualities for
a long time. Let me give you an example: the idea of something being "hot".
Something being hot or cold as some intrinsic property or quality is how
the ancients would describe natural phenomena. Fire is hot, ice is cold,
these are their qualities. Empedocles
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empedocles> formulated the classical theory
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_elements> that there were four
elements—water, earth, fire, and air—and Aristotle
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle> reinforced this idea by
characterizing them as moist, dry, hot, and cold.

Later at the beginning of the scientific revolution, the idea of a possible
substance associated with heat transfer was proposed and then abandoned. It
turned out that heat is not a quality (same with moist, dry, cold) but a
dynamical process, in fact, it is the average kinetic energy of billions of
particles in an object. When two objects come in contact the heat transfer
is simply the result of the faster particles colliding and transferring
part of the energy to the cooler, slower-moving particles. It turned out
that a lot of properties in nature are not "qualities" but processes and

Again in this sense, I say redness is an illusion, it is not a quality, it
is not a substance but a process. You can point out to a sequence of
neurons activating and say "it seems this person is experiencing redness"
simply because after studying many individuals we can identify that
particular neuron firing pattern as associated with the processing of the
brain that results in the sensation of redness (that we can know by the
person self-reported experience for example).

I think I may understand better your concern. You want to assure people
that are worried about things like uploading that when they are uploaded
their entire self is really uploaded because we understand completely what
it means to be Giovanni for example. You want to assure them that we can
have a 1 to 1 representation of who they are. I think I get what you are
trying to say now better.

But I can tell you that the functionalist view should be more reassuring
that your substrate-dependent ideas about human consciousness. In fact, the
entire idea that uploading would preserve our consciousness, personality,
and sense of self is all based on the hypothesis that all that matters is a
function, and in fact, the most essential functions are enough.

So while I do understand better your motivation now I still don't get the
fixation with things like qualia because it is not really what makes us.
And if substratum was really fundamental for a particular type of
consciousness to be supported then the entire idea of uploading seems
futile to me. In that case, we should try to support biology and replace
old cells with new ones, rejuvenate tissues, and so on, that by the way, it
is a good intermediate step until we actually know how to upload minds and
have tested this extensively.

One more thing while I'm on the topic of biology, substrata, and function.
Another argument for functionalism is the fact we continuously replace the
actual matter in our bodies. Even bones are completely replaced by new
atoms every few years. Individual neurons last for a long time and they can
be replaced but more slowly than other cells but their individual atoms are
continuously replaced all the time. So it is not a particular substance
that counts, it is the arrangement and connections between the parts that


On Tue, Apr 25, 2023 at 9:02 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>

> Brent,
> Let's not bring god into the conversation. When we do experiment we care
> about differences between groups or conditions. I already showed you the
> graph of the 2 overlapping distributions. This is how you do science. You
> look at the responses of a group to certain stimuli if you study color
> perception. You could show them green or red and see how they respond.
> Nobody thinks like you do about inverting colors, your greenness is my
> redness kind of talk, really I never read a scientific paper that discussed
> things in this way. It is a very alien way to think about these topics. Can
> you try to talk in a more scientific way?
> I have EEG systems available tell me what experiment you would do that
> will bring some interesting insights to your search for redness. Try to
> write it a scientific research proposal, no quality, knowledge of, or
> qualia needs to be mentioned. Describe what is the hypothesis and the
> methodology of the experiment.
> On Tue, Apr 25, 2023 at 8:46 PM Henry Rivera via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> I really liked that video about the red strawberries. It's
>> thought-provoking. I'm curious to get Brent's response. Maybe color is the
>> wrong simple example to use for communicating about qualia. It worked well
>> enough until we realized color perception is a subjective contextual
>> process that did not evolve to favor reflecting (consensus) reality.
>> Perceived color constancy is more important, that is, has been more
>> adaptive for us. How about them apples... or strawberries.
>> To quote my late friend and rapper Sean Byrne: "Nothing exists except
>> for your perception, the pain of the past only serves as a lesson."
>> -Henry
>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 7:00 PM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> Hi Jason,
>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 3:09 PM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>> as in say the strawberry is red, but it would answer the question:
>>>>> "What is redness like for you." differently.
>>>> I don't see why they would answer this question differently if
>>>> everything got inverted, including all emotional associations. If you
>>>> changed only the word, but left the emotional associations as they were,
>>>> then you could perhaps get different descriptions.
>>> I'm skipping a bunch of stuff that I think is less important, and
>>> focusing on what I think is most important, but if I skip over something
>>> important, don't let me brush over it.
>>> Giovani, evidently you think even a person engineered to have red /
>>> green qualia inversion, you would consider them to be indistinguishable,
>>> and that the quality difference of the subjective knowledge wouldn't matter?
>>> It sounds like Jason at least thinks the two would be qualitatively
>>> different, and this difference is important, if you are asking what his
>>> redness is like for each of them.  Jason just has a problem with how we
>>> would know, or how he would report that.  For the moment, can we just say
>>> we are God, for a bit.  And we can know if the redness is now greenness,
>>> even though the person wouldn't know, since all of his memories and
>>> references have been remapped.
>>> The prediction is the future, we will be able to read people's minds,
>>> and objectively observe whether it is Jason's redness, or Jason's
>>> greenness, via neural ponytails, or whatever.
>>> The critically important part is we need to focus on only the important
>>> thing, the quality of the redness.  Not what the person thinks that quality
>>> is called, whether he is lying or whatever.  Let's only focus on the
>>> quality of the redness experiences.  Would God say that quality has changed
>>> or not, regardless of what the person says.
>>> So, again, if you engineered someone to be a qualia invert.  God could
>>> honestly tell those two people that one's redness was like the other's
>>> grenness.
>>> And even though they would function differently, when asked what is
>>> redness like for you, they would know, since God told them, that their
>>> redness was like the other's greenness, so despite them being otherwise
>>> identical, they were qualitatively different.
>>> So, would you agree that the quality of their consciousness is dependent
>>> on what their redness is like, and if one redness quality is like the
>>> other's greenness, that would be important and objectively observable?
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