RE: Another Take on the Fermi Paradox

From: Colin Hales (
Date: Wed Jan 01 2003 - 06:12:20 MST

Rafal wrote:
<sorry to snip>
> Since the problem of qualia is to me the most vexing one in all of
> philosophy, I am eagerly awaiting the ability to explore qualia in
> Turing-capable machines. If there are such machines which would deny
> experiencing qualia, while otherwise being capable of functioning and
> self-monitoring at the same level and using similar
> information-processing
> structures as humans do, I would seriously worry about the
> possibility of
> the existence of souls, and other such rigmarole. Being the inveterate
> skeptic I therefore expect that machines will have the same
> capability for
> subjective experience as humans do, and it will be possible
> to tie this experience to complex information-processing steps, built out
> of simpler ones.
> Rafal

It's new years day 2003 and the weather is foul. Kids are asleep and I allow
myself the luxury of indulging myself in these emails...ahhhh....bliss....
Rafal delivers a ripe apple to munch on :-)

Like you I keenly await resolution of the well from which subjective
experience springs. Here's a little help to tease it out....

Imagine that inside our heads, intimately attached to and driven by the
neural/glial activity we observe, is an as yet unspecified emergent effect.
It 'is' the subjective feel, qualia, phenomenal consciousness (everyone's
got their name for it!). The cells are trained in form and behaviour to
express it as needed. Our learning is guided by the experience of it. We
have priveleged access to it conferred by our 1st person role and also
unspecified organisational details in the brain. Let's say it is based on
phenomenon X.

Let's say we understand physical phenomenon X and set about creating
artificial neurons that not only algorithmically act in their traditional
macro-computational capacity but also provide a complete neuro-glial
substrate to allow allow artificial creation of emergent X to come along for
the ride. We craft our AGI substrate to make use of X. We know that any AGI
without X has a huge zombifying hole in the feedback mechanism driving
learning. No magic. No souls. Just good ol' brute physics at work leveraging
IQ out of a given amount of 'stuff'.

Whatever X is, I think it does the job you want - proving we are not a
simulation. It creates the 'beables' - the algorithmic intermediates you
mention - that 'collapse' into the unified subjective experience of Mind.
Vision and feel and taste and smell and sound all nicely propriocepted out
into the world.

Indeed each layer of emergence adds to the evidence against simulation.
"We get atoms from atomic particles" and "we get X from cellular behaviour"
are equivalent statements. X is the top of the emergence heap and cells
don't know it's there. Atomic particles have no idea they are in atoms.
Subatomic particles have no idea they are in atomic particles. This is the
nature of the strata of emergence.

X is really Occam's-razor-simple and obvious, there in front of us all the
time We're all going to go 'doh!', why didn't we see that before? Dennett is
going to go "Told you so!!! Simple, easy, simple".

Now, the Nobel prize winning phenomenon X is....<< take a stab, and no
pinching Penrose/Hameroff stuff either :-) >>.

Enjoy! Let's make 2003 the year we nail down qualia.


Colin Hales

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