[ExI] consciousness and perception

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Sun Jan 25 19:43:28 UTC 2009

--- On Sat, 1/24/09, John K Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net> wrote:

> The other thing I object to is that a collection of atoms
> cannot generate
> subjectivity, there must be something else. And I don't
> much like it that
> they give no hint of what that "something" is.

That something is a dynamic well defined pattern of motion as opposed to an entropic non-patterned motion. The stuff of consciousness, even life itself, is an organized pattern of energy like a ballet. Atoms are like ballerinas and changing the ballerinas does not change 'Swan Lake' appreciably. But a bunch of ballerinas milling about an opera house is certainly not an enactment of 'Swan Lake'. 

Subjectivity is not a property of the atoms, it is a recursive procedure that the atoms carry out; a strange loop of cooperative interlacing functional feedback that constantly updates itself. Subjectivity is an ongoing cycle of information gathering and decision making. If something did not percieve qualia, then it would be unable to make decisions based on those qualia. In other words a worm is more conscious than a philosophic zombie. If a worm gets too hot it would move. A philosophic zombie, unable to experience the qualia "hot", would not.   
> > The number of people stopped at a metropolitan
> red-light is pretty
> > convincing empirically.
> It's convincing evidence that a particular wavelength
> of light produces the
> same behavior, but what subjective experience it produces,
> or even if there
> is any subjectivity at all we do not and will never know.

Statistically it is a near certainty that the light produces a subjective experience. A creature that did not experience subjective qualia could not possibly survive natural selection. Without the perception of qualia like pain or fear, philosophic zombies would have been hunted to extinction by predators ages ago. Subjective experience of qualia is merely an intermediate step between our sensory perceptions and our behaviorial reactions. That ultimate behavior is the entire reason that senses and subjective experience evolved in the first place.

Take the evolution of something that consciousness researchers take for granted, the head. The evolution of the head in animals is paralleled quite nicely by the evolution of their mobility. Sessile creatures like coral and sponges that live most of their life rooted to a single place don't need heads or nervous systems.

Once critters evolved to move around, those who concentrated their sensory apparatus toward the direction they were moving so that could "see" where they were going, were more successful at survival and reproduction. Once those senses and the information they generated became complex enough to warrant the development of a brain to process them, the head, as a phenotypic trait, was born. 

So a sea anemone does not subjectively experience "red". But is there evidence for any subjective experience at all? I say yes. They sense the distinction between 'food' and 'clown fish' for example and that distinction of information must be processed as some rudimentary quale. The end result is the decision 'sting' or 'don't sting'.

By the same token, the qualia red or green would be just as meaningless to an echolocating bat as the imagined destinction between the 'chirpy' echo of a moth or the 'clicky' echo of stink bug is to you. Once you realize that nature would have rigged it so that manure smelled like fillet mignon to dung beetles, you will understand the evolutionary purpose of subjective experience.    
> > There is but one soul and you are an instantiation of
> it.
> Yes I agree, provided we take a few small liberties with
> the word "soul". I
> agree that I am AN instantiation of it, I am not THE
> instantiation of it.
> There is no reason in principle there couldn't be
> 6.02*10^23 instantiation
> of it, all of them me.

I can agree with that in principle, provided we take a few liberties with the word "me". I don't think a mole of you would behave quite as you expect however. A few of you might even try to express their individuality by dying their hair purple, body piercings, or some such. And if I kidnapped one of your copies as an infant, dubbed him Fred, and raised him in Cambodia, then Fred would disagree with you. Inputs are more important then substrate or else identical twins would insist on being the same person.

Stuart LaForge

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list