Re: A Universe of Consciousness.

From: David Cake (
Date: Mon Jul 08 2002 - 04:55:12 MDT

>At least he does not ignore obvious mathematical facts. I don't know
>whether he is right, but I think
>sloppy reasoning is much better than merely emotional attitudes. (i.e. yours)

        My emotional attitudes are merely why I find his more
irritating, not why I think he is wrong. I have quite a lot of good
arguments as to why he is wrong, from arguments against the Chinese
Room to arguments in favour of plausible purely connectionist
cognition, to arguments against quantum effects being that
significant as a general neuron mechanism.

>I don't believe
>anyone on this list (or at all) could rule out the possibility that
>Penrose could be right.

        If you aren't going to rule out the possibility that he could
be right just because his reasoning is sloppy, its hard to rule out
the idea that anyone could be right.

>I also think the Chinese room analogy should not be treated as a
>complete nonsense. It is
>not a strict argument, but, for me, an intuitive hint, that
>consciousness may have more substance
>than it appears at the first sight.

        Indeed. But once you realistically start getting into
self-modifying Chinese Rooms with internal state equivalent to that
of a human being, it gets very silly indeed.
        But its interesting just how far you CAN get in impersonating
a human being using ALICE, for example, which is pretty much along
the lines of Chinese Room style canned response.
        The Chinese Room is not a good argument against machine
consciousness, but it may well be a good argument against Turing

>There is some mystical about self-consciousness (if you meditate
>about it a bit),
>there is some mystical about quantum mechanics (if you think abbout it a bit)
>and there is strong link between these two (phase reduction).

Thats about the level of reasoning I think Penrose is at.

> Perhaps he is wrong in the
>details, but there is a good chance that he's got the correct
>overall intuition.

        That might be where we differ - I think there is an excellent
chance he has that wrong, and I think there are many flaws in the
reasoning that gets him there.

>My point : It is not a correct to say that argument A must be wrong
>since it is similar to
>the wrong statement B (vitalism in your case). This leads to nowhere.

        Yes, but that was why I found it more irritating, not why its wrong!
        I think Edelman has some flaws, but overall I think he is
heading in the right direction. I think Penrose is heading in the
wrong direction, and for the wrong reasons.

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