[ExI] Do digital computers feel?

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Thu Dec 29 20:21:36 UTC 2016

Brent Allsop wrote:

> I still see and theoretically predict that there must be some level, for
> which it can be said that something “has” the redness quality

If "red" means  experiencing the red qualia then a tomato can not be red,
unless tomatoes are conscious.  A tomato can produce the redness qualia in
certain arrangements of atoms that obey the laws of physics (like me), but
it would be meaningless to say something has the redness qualia even in a
thought experiment without specifying what is observing it. Qualia is in
the mind of the beholder not the behold, what is being observed may not
even have a mind.

> something having a redness quality is different than some mechanism that
> can detect this redness quality

A redness qualia detecting mechanism may or may not itself be red, it can
make that determination with the help of a mirror.  Asking  "does a
glutamate molecule have the largeness or smallness quality?" can only have
one answer, "It depends on what it's compared to, compared to an electron
it has the largeness quality and compared to a galaxy it has the smallness
quality".  And the same would be true about it having the redness quality,
it depends on who is observing it, or more generally how the observer is
interacting with the glutamate. If I am interacting with the glutamate by
observing the light reflected off it then it will not produce the redness
quaia in me, but if I interact with glutamate by the molecule binding with
certain neurons in my brain then it will produce the redness quality.
Interacting with electromagnetic waves of 780 nanometers is not the only
way that the redness qualia can be experienced by me.

​> ​
> For you, it is anything that is functionally the same as, that is the
> neural correlate of qualia.


​> ​
> For you, the qualia is downstream,

I think the ability to experience qualia needs a certain amount of
complexity so it's got to be downstream from something as simple as a
molecule. And nothing in isolation has the redness qualia or any qualia at
all, it's only meaningful to say X produces the redness qualia in Y.  .

> ​> ​
> or implemented on top of the functional behavior.
> ​ ​
> But my prediction is that you have this completely backwards.

​If you accept that Darwin was right and your ideas are also right then you
must predict ​there are no conscious beings in the universe. I think qualia
are implemented on top of the functional behavior as a byproduct, so if I
accept that Darwin was right (and I do) and if my ideas are right then the
fact that there is at least one conscious being in the universe is not

​> ​
> 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.

​And when that happens the next order of business will be ​in determining
what "
the greenness quality
​" means. Does it mean...

1) Something that makes someone else make a noise with their mouth that
sounds like "I am experiencing the greenness quality ​"?
Something that makes someone else make a noise with their mouth that sounds
​ "​
I am experiencing the
​same ​
greenness quality
​ I have when I observe grass or an emerald"?
3) ​
Something that makes someone else make a noise with their mouth that sounds
​ "
I am experiencing the
​same ​
greenness quality
​ that you do when you observe emeralds or grass"?
Something that makes someone
​ else actually experience ​
​same ​subjective
greenness quality
​ that I do when I observe emeralds or grass?

If it means #4 how on Earth could that be reliably demonstrated, even in

 >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

Not to be pedantic but when dealing with philosophical issues like personal
identity, qualia and consciousness one must be extremely careful with
personal pronouns like "I" "we" and "you". Those pronouns can mask a lot of
fuzzy thinking.

​> ​
> there is a different function that has the greenness quality we can
> experience,

​The greenness function is not light with a wavelength of 510 nanometers
nor is it part of my brain, it is part of my mind,  ​it is not a noun it is
part of what my brain does. My
greenness function
​ inputs light of ​
510 nanometers
​ and outputs the green qualia. I don't know if your green function does
the same as mine, I have my suspicions but I don't even know for a fact
that you have a green function,  after​ all most things don't. I suspect
but can not prove that rocks and trees don't have a greenness function
because they don't behave as if they do, however I do suspect my fellow
human beings do have a greenness function of some sort because they behave
as if they do. But I could be wrong.

> ​> ​
> 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”.

​If that's all it takes why wouldn't you believe an AI if it said​
 “I am experiencing red”

John K Clark
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