[ExI] Do digital computers feel?

Brent Allsop brent.allsop at gmail.com
Thu Dec 29 04:27:26 UTC 2016

On 12/23/2016 12:37 AM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> On 23 Dec. 2016, at 3:44 pm, Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com 
> <mailto:brent.allsop at gmail.com>> wrote:
>> Hi Stathis,
>> Hmmm, I'm having troubles understanding what you are saying. You seem 
>> to be not understanding what I am trying to say as in no place did I 
>> intend to say that any functionally equivalent neurons would behave 
>> differently when they were receiving the same inputs.  I am only 
>> saying that IF the entire comparison systems was one neuron (it would 
>> at least have to have input from all voxal element representing 
>> neurons - at the same time, so it could know how they all compared to 
>> one another, all at the same time.)  And if this was the case, and if 
>> you swapped this entire awareness of it all neuron - only then could 
>> you swap all the glutamate producing representations of the 
>> strawberry with positive voltage representations of the strawberry - 
>> just as the neural substitution argument stipulates is required to 
>> get the same functionality.  Only then would it behave the same.  If 
>> only any sub part of the comparison system was substituted, it would 
>> not be able to function the same.  The way it would fail would be 
>> different, depending on the type of binding system used.  A real 
>> glutamate sensor will only say all the surface voxels of the 
>> strawberry are all glutimate when it is all represented with real 
>> physical glutamate and a comparison system will only say all the 
>> positive voltages (again representing the same strawberry) are the 
>> same "red" if it knows how to interpret all it's physically different 
>> representations of "red" as if they were red.
>> I think the problem is, whenever you are replacing discrete 
>> individual small neurons, there is no easy way for it to be aware of 
>> whether they are all qualitatively alike, all at the same time.  If 
>> you give to me any example of some mechanical way that a system can 
>> know how to compare (or better - be aware of) the quality of all the 
>> physical representations at the same time (I'm doing this by making 
>> the entire system be one large neuron) it will be obvious how the 
>> neural substitution will fail to function the same.  If the entire 
>> comparison system is one neuron, when it, along with all glutamate is 
>> replaced by positive voltages, - there would be no failure and it 
>> would behave the same - as demanded by the substitution argument.
> I'm having difficulty following what you're saying. I'm simply 
> proposing replacing any component of a neurone, or any collection of 
> neurones, with a machine that does the same job. There is a type of 
> glutamate receptor that changes its shape when glutamate molecules 
> bind, creating a channel for sodium and potassium ions to pass through 
> the membrane, and triggering an action potential. We could imagine 
> nanomachines in the place of these receptors that monitor glutamate 
> and open and close ion channels in the same way as the natural 
> receptors, but are made from different materials; perhaps from carbon 
> nanotubules rather than proteins. The engineering problem would be to 
> ensure that these nanomachines perform their task of detecting 
> glutamate and opening ion channels just like the naturally occurring 
> receptors. Do you think it is in theory possible to do this? Do you 
> see that if it is possible, then neurons modified with these receptors 
> *must* behave just like the original neurons?

Good example – that helps me to understand more clearly.  Yes, I see 
that if neuron’s are modified [using carbon nanotubes to open and close 
ion channels in the same way that glutamate does] they *must* behave 
just like the original neurons.  I really appreciate you and James 
sticking with me and pointing out all my admittedly sloppy mistakes.  
I've spent much time rewriting this response, after thinking about all 
this for many years, and I hope I've improved and am not making as many 
sloppy mistakes with this reply.

I still see and theoretically predict that there must be some level, for 
which it can be said that something “has” the redness quality we can 
experience in a bound together way with other diverse qualities.  Of 
note is that something having a redness quality is different than some 
mechanism that can detect this redness quality by being aware of it 
together with other qualities.  And that is the purpose of the binding 
neuron in my example that you are replacing.  It does not have the 
quality, but only detects, by being aware of the glutamate quality vs 
other physical qualities.  So, the binding neuron, itself, does not have 
the glutamate quality, but only allows such qualities to be bound 
together into unified awareness of all diverse qualities.  As for the 
behavior of a regular not exclusive or gate, how the not exclusive or 
functionality is implemented is irrelevant and hardware independent – as 
long as the output is the same.  But for this binding neuron, the 
diverse qualities it can be aware of at the same time is critically 
important to its conscious intelligence.  And when you replace this 
functionality with an abstracted not exclusive or gate, you are 
obviously doing this same function without being aware of nor comparing 
any real physical glutamate qualities.

On 12/23/2016 1:59 PM, James Carroll wrote:
> On Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 7:39 PM, Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com 
> <mailto:brent.allsop at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     But of course, everyone would know this was only functionally the
>     same
> No, everyone would NOT know that. You are begging the question... 
> since the question is whether things that are functionally the same 
> have the same qualia. So we would NOT know that it is "only" 
> functionally the same.

I think statements like this reveal a key difference in our theoretical 
predictions and that this difference in our thinking is the cause of all 
of our failure to communicate.  For you, it is anything that is 
functionally the same as, that is the neural correlate of qualia.  For 
you, the qualia is downstream, or implemented on top of the functional 
behavior.  But my prediction is that you have this completely 
backwards.  When we are aware of redness and greenness qualities, 
together, this qualitative awareness is what enables us to consciously 
perform the not exclusive or hugely diverse qualitative comparison 

And, again, as I have pointed out in the various week, stronger, and 
strongest ways to eff the ineffable, the prediction is that you and John 
Clark will soon be proven wrong, and that we will be able to find out 
the actual qualities of these physical behaviors, (and how they are 
bound together) and reliably predict when someone's awareness systems is 
aware of glutamate vs glycene psychical qualities, and thereby reliably 
predict when someone is comparing a redness quality with a greenness 
quality.  The prediction is that everyone will be forced by reliable 
demonstrable science to say something like - yes, it is glutamate that 
has the greenness quality.  Everyone will start talking about it in this 
way, using the term "has" a redness quality, instead of using terms like 
the neural correlate of redness.

Another point I feel I should point out is that you are predicting that 
a functional theory of qualia gets around the issue allegedly raised 
with the neural substitution argument.  But I predict that it doesn't.

Perhaps it will help to look at it this way.  Let’s go with your 
functional predictions and move qualia above the hardware level and 
assume that there is some hardware independent function that has the 
redness quality we can experience, and that there is a different 
function that has the greenness quality we can experience, and of course 
we must be able to bind these two qualitative functions together so that 
it can be said that some binding system is our conscious awareness of 
both of the functional qualities.  The detection of these functional 
qualities, via being consciously aware of them, can be said to be the 
initial cause of us reporting that “I am experiencing red”.  Our ability 
to perform the not exclusive or operation consciously is based on our 
ability to be aware of the redness function quality, and know that this 
is not like the greenness function quality.  So, when you do the neural 
substitution of this system, and when you replace the binding / 
awareness function (whatever enables us to be aware of a greenness and a 
redness function at the same time) and you replace the redness and 
greenness functions with something else, you - again, remove the 
conscious redness and greenness quality based not exclusive or function 
and replace it with something that is again hardware independent (or 
rather independent of the functional quality at this level).  The 
functionalist theory of qualia implies that the true redness is some 
place beyond or based on this logical awareness functioning system.  So 
you must repeat the process, removing the qualitative system on which 
the not exclusive or functionality is based add infinitem.  The best you 
can do is claim that it is functional redness turtles, all the way up, 
and that the only place a redness quality exists (on which our conscious 
not exclusive or functionality is implemented on), is in this infinite 
regressed functionality.

Brent Allsop

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