[ExI] Do digital computers feel?

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Thu Dec 29 05:49:17 UTC 2016

Stathis: <<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 neurones?>>

Brent: <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.>

I'm still confused as to your position. You agree that replacing a
component of a neurone with a different, but functionally equivalent,
component will not change that neurone's behaviour. But you are also saying
(if I understand correctly) that the experience, such as a redness quality,
does not come from the functional relationships between brain components.
So swapping some components in the brain with functional equivalents might
change the redness experience, but not change the behaviour of the neurones
or the behaviour of the person, which is determined by the neorones. Is
this what you believe would happen?

Stathis Papaioannou
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