[ExI] Do digital computers feel?

Brent Allsop brent.allsop at gmail.com
Fri Dec 23 02:39:41 UTC 2016


After thinking about this for a year or more, and hearing your's and 
Stathis' comments (in his post he asked: "Yes, but do you agree that 
despite the silicon-based comparator neurone you describe being 
physically different, the rest of the brain will function exactly the 

I think I have a better understanding of your logic in these complaints.

The way the substitution would feel as the substitution wave traversed 
across the brain would be highly dependent on the type of binding 
mechanism the brain employed to bind all of this knowledge together so 
we can be aware of the physical quality of it it all at once.  When we 
look at a strawberry we are aware of a 3D model of the strawberry.  We 
can split the image up into 3D voxel elements, and we are aware of the 
quality of each voxel element on the surface of the strawberry and the 
leaves, again all at the same time.  So lets say that there is one 
neuron that represents each voxel element, firing on all it's downstream 
synapses with glutamate when representing the surface of the 
strawberry.  It would take much more than a single neuron to bind all 
this together, including the semantic information that it all represents 
a red strawberry.... but let's just imagine that the binding system is 
one single awareness neuron for simplicity purposes.  This large neuron 
needs to have an upstream synapse touching each of these actual 
knowledge voxel neurons, each firing - some with glutamate and some with 
glycene.  Otherwise, it couldn't be aware of the entire thing all at 
once.  Steven Lehar postulates that this knowledge is neurons firing in 
standing wave patterns, so maybe this large single neuron aware of the 
physical quality of all our knowledge representation neurons is 
coordinating the firing pattern of all of these neurons so they fire in 
a standing wave or something.

Anyway, the point being is that if you could do the entire binding 
process with one neuron, it would function the same as James is 
demanding when you replace it.  When you replace the one large binding 
neuron, only then could you replace all the upstream neurons and 
translators producing glutamate.  But of course, everyone would know 
this was only functionally the same - both interpreting the very 
different physical representations as if they were red.  But the binding 
system probably isn't a single neuron, so there may be some type of 
possible wave, during the substitution, for which the system would not 
behave the same - saying that that glutamate is nothing like a positive 


I tried to explain that it wouldn't be identical behavior, until the 
entire substitution

On 12/22/2016 3:21 PM, James Carroll wrote:
> On Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 2:31 PM, Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com 
> <mailto:brent.allsop at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Oh great.Thanks, James, for this reply.I realized after I sent my
>     post, that I left a few important things out, and you are clearly
>     pointing these omissions out.
>     The difference is that computer functional logic is all
>     implemented above and abstracted away from the quality of the
>     physical hardware level.
> You are begging the question.
>     All representations have a translation or transduction system that
>     physically translates between all the different physical
>     representations, so they can all be thought of or function as 1s
>     and 0s.But we are different.The physical quality of our
>     representations is all important, and included in all of the
>     comparison and intelligent processing systems.With us, we can be
>     aware of and reflect on what they are like, but with a computer,
>     all that is abstracted away by all the hardware translators.
> You are begging the question.
>     So, true Chalmers admitted that the fading / dancing qualia is a
>     possibility, and this is exactly what this theory predicts will
>     happen.
> If you believe in fading and dancing qualia, then your qualia is 
> epiphenomenal. YOUR qualia may be epiphenomenal, mine isn't.
>     If the comparison system can detect a phenomenal quality of
>     positive voltages and zero voltages, then there will be dancing
>     qualia, as you make the substitution.
> But the behavior will be unchanged.... When YOUR qualia change, does 
> your behavior remain unaltered?
>     If there is no qualia at all, it will be fading qualia.Except that
>     qualitatively, you will be able to tell with the first comparator
>     substitution.The prediction is that you will never be able to
>     construct any of the comparitors to say glutamate is the same as
>     +5 volts.
> Sure, to preserve the behavior the translation at the boundary between 
> the mechanical element and the natural one is necessary. Again, so 
> what? That doesn't mean that there is no qualia in a system that is 
> mechanical, with the proper translation at the boundaries.
> Remember that you can push the boundary where the "translation" takes 
> place completely outside the brain, and translate between the brain 
> and the muscles of your mouth, eyes, skin (for touch) etc.
>     So you will not be able to “flip the switch” between the first
>     comparator substitution, and not see a difference between
>     them.True, you will be able to replace everything, and eventually
>     it will start functioning entirely identically.
> It will function identically during the in-between steps too... so 
> long as there is a translation layer between each of the mechanical 
> neuron and the natural ones.
>     But, as the wave of conversion progresses partially along, this
>     theory is predicting there will clearly be dancing / fading
>     qualia, until everything is replaced and the quality of the
>     representations becomes entirely irrelevant - abstracted away from
>     the quality of the physical layer - everyone admitting that there
>     is clearly a big difference due to the dancing / fading qualia as
>     you progressed to the eventually completely identical behavior.
> But if the behavior is unchanged (as it must be), then the person will 
> have their qualia fade, all the while they claim that their qualia is 
> NOT fading... that's exactly what the contradiction of the thought 
> experiment is. And that is why Chalmers and I think that his thought 
> experiment means that qualia MUST be functional.
> James
> -- 
> Web: http://james.jlcarroll.net

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