[ExI] Digital Consciousness .

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Wed Apr 24 15:44:50 UTC 2013

On 24/04/2013 15:50, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> On Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 03:57:09PM +0200, Anders Sandberg wrote:
>> Eugene, part of this is merely terminology. Power in philosophy is
> Yes, I realize that some of it is jargon. However (and not for
> lack of trying) I have yet to identify a single worthwhile
> concept coming out of that field, particularly in the theory of mind.

Well, whenever something worthwhile happens in philosophy it is no 
longer called philosophy. The scientific method, logic, Occam’s razor, 
decision theory and most philosophy departments come from philosophy. 
That doesn't mean 99% of it isn't verbiage, of course.

> You used to be a computational neuroscientist before you
> became a philosopher (turncoat! boo! hiss!). What is your professional
> opinion about the philosophy of mind subdiscipline?

It gives me a headache and I avoid it.

But yes, there is some worthwhile stuff there - mostly as an antidote to 
overconfidence among scientists and philosophers. We have some 
philosophy of mind people being very useful when working together with 
neuroscientists on experiment design: their sceptical approach to the 
"things" people look for and their ability to do strict argumentation 
turns out to be really useful in inventing experiments that actually 
tell you something (a surprising number of experiments are totally 
pointless - they can not really answer anything).

> The more the pity when a stagnant field is chronically prone to 
> arrogant pronouncements about disciplines they don't feel they need to 
> have any domain knowledge in. 

Ah, a bit like how scientists think they know enough philosophy to 
ignore it. See for example Hawking's latest book where he reinvents 
philosophical wheels. There is plenty of this going around. Actually 
learning enough about different disciplines to see what they know takes 

> I really like that the Si elegans has identified the necessity of a 
> behavior library.

Behavior is nice and public, and can be compared. In C elegans it likely 
corresponds closely to the internal states, but mammals have a lot more 
internal degrees of freedom. Still, we should start making behavior 
libraries for mice and humans too - they are bound to be useful.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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