Re: qualia, once and for all

From: Metaqualia (
Date: Sat Jun 19 2004 - 22:49:54 MDT

> Now I'm getting *really* confused. What is a qualia stream? Human minds

Just a temporal sequence of qualia. Qualia most times do not exist in a very
short time frame (like, milliseconds). Except the quale for being surprised,
or the quale for sudden terror. Most take at least a few seconds to
appreciate. Other minutes. Qualia exist in time because the perception of
them takes place in time and because the apparatus that produces them
evolves in time, and without the (4dimensional) complexity of that apparatus
qualia could (probably) not exist.

> present-self (at time of the thought; yes, this actually is an illusion in
> itself) at all, but by my past-selves. Some of these are close to my
> present-self, others very distant.

I see your point although the overall subjective impression of this
happening is not to be continuously replaced by newer selves; living, feels
like existing in time. Therefore qualia stream continuity exists
subjectively and that is all that matters from a first person perspective.

> future, there would then be two very similar versions of what my
> would regard as future-selves of itself. Both would the memories of my
> future-self just before the duplication. Both would perceive qualias they
> remember as part of "their own" qualia stream. So...does that mean that
> a human also creates a copy of its qualia stream?

Controversial, I think you would copy the qualia stream but the two would
still be causally separated (which means you couldn't get away with
terminating the original), although I have no way to know for sure unless I
actually try the experiment.

> I don't know what sentience is, but if it is required for
> there are probably more efficient implementations of a general
> "qualia-generating sentient" than (not modified to the point of being
> unrecognizable as such) uploaded human minds.

yes I agree with you!

> Whatever qualities you need in a qualia-generator, designing one from
scratch is
> likely to give you a more efficient result than using what evolution came
> with in humans.

True, all positive minds with positive qualia balance deserve to exist. For
now, they don't, and we have been stuck with an unfavorable balance for
decades, so the utmost urgency is required in fixing us, and other animals,
then you can think about creating all happy beings which haven't existed yet
(and this is speculation since I don't know how the "I" instantiation
process works).

> > These other means inevitably will take us and the ones we care about to
> > more favorable balance of positivity and negativity.
> That is afaik not always correct, and even in many cases where it is you
> classify that as a side-effect.


> That really won't do at all in my case. All that tells me is that
> wants me to avoid situation X", nothing more. I don't have any compelling
> to assume that my 'OUCH' is objectively negative. I will avoid it, partly

Separate the ouch from the mechanicity of the physical response which will
lead you to avoid situation X. They are not the same. I consciously avoid
situations that I deem dangerous. Yet when I am in those situations I do not
have a sudden and inexplicable subjective experience of negativity. I am
just consciously aware of the danger, that's all. With pain it's a different
story altogether. Your hand on the flame. Or walking on a broken foot. Here
something very different is going on, not just an "avoid situation X"
directive, but a spooky pain sensation.

> If I had the ability for complete and safe(!) self-modification, I would
> deactivate my qualia-generating code (yes, all of it) ASAP, assuming that
I find
> something to replace it with that works at least as well (afaik, a typical
> rational goal system would be likely to work).

And would that not be equivalent to physical death? What reason have you to
think you are still alive once you lose qualia? Even being aware of logical
thoughts requires qualia. These are often not strongly positive or strongly
negative (unless you are thinking about emotionally charged topics). But
information processing without qualia (if it can exist) is just the universe
buzzing away in the background, without you really existing, without anyone

> > If I unified the forces of the universe into a single theory which
> > in a more elegant form all other theories, would that justify making a
> > assumption as strong as the one that my theory represent the theory of
> > everything?
> Occam's razor still has validity. If you could offer a theory that makes
> verifiable predictions that classify it at least as good at predicting
> as the best competitors (according to BT), which is simpler (I don't
> what elegance is) than those competitors, then yes, it would justify that.

Qualia based objective morality synthesizes a lot of human moralities, which
apparently have contradictory predictions, and puts them together in a
coherent matter. It consolidates moral systems as diverse as: animal rights
activism, scientology, islamic faith, christian faith... It consolidates the
diverse opinions concerning good and evil such as pro-abortionism,
anti-abortionism, and so forth.
It is also simpler to say positive/negative qualia than to recite passages
from the bible or the quran.

> How can it correctly judge them as trash if qualia are a part of objective

I can't really define qualia as being or not being part of objective
reality. They do have a strong connection with objective reality otherwise
we wouldn't be able to talk about them. And yet something unique about them
prevents us from analyzing them in the 3rd person. My argument was simply
that if you have a purely bayesian logical inference machine, which does not
have the same kind of architecture as the human brain, and IF this specific
architecture is required in order to experience qualia, then the machine
would _not_ experience them, therefore it would be detached from their
existence as a person without a visual cortex is detached from everything
regarding visual perception and cannot understand visual concepts. When this
happens, we would have no logical moral standing for the machine, and it
would be rationally perfectly justified to nuke us away into oblivion.
Allowing the machine to understand qualia may be the only way to prevent it
from eventually rearranging matter in the universe for more useful purposes.

> No, the most URGENT need right now is to stop our house from burning down
> without blowing it up (sorry, Eliezer). Suffering is a problem, but we can


> probably tolerate a few more years/decades/centuries of it if we need that
> to find a safe way to alleviate it. We probably don't have that time
because of

We? can probably tolerate? Who? Is this you typing at the end of the
keyboard? or kids in the street with dirty feet and disease trying to
survive until tomorrow? or is it laboratory animals who are cut up alive? or
is it people with chronic depression or other mental problems who literally
live in hell? There is still a food chain out there. We fortunately stepped
out of it when we developed the neocortex, but animals still live with the
reality of having their flesh torn apart and eaten. The world is a nasty,
nasty place unless you are an upper class human with good mental health.
Another century of the biosphere creating massive amounts of negative
qualia? Utterly immoral.

> Right now, it seems like a good idea to me to switch them off entirely. I

Ok this is quite new. Then you can start a zero-qualia movement! :-)
But it is really easy to switch them off just suicide. As for the mechanical
aspects of life, once you stop being aware of them, who cares??

> AI!), but turning the goodness knob to maximum and everything else to zero
> doesn't look like a good idea to me at all.

Positive qualia are not a knob.They are multidimensional fractal type aurora
borealis-looking multicolor states of reality with a complex and beautiful
structure :)

> justification than the xenophobic instinct of getting aggressive at and
> people different from ourselves when the resources run low (just an
> there are plenty of other evolutionary adaptions I consider negative). The
> output of the system doesn't have any more justification either.

you are talking about the third person interpretation. The first person
interpretation is what I am concerned with.

> show that you have a better one, I'll go on treating qualia as yet another
> misguided adaption.

Remember the ouch!

> Regardless of who, or whether either of us is correct, if the first SI is
> CV-using and it works, we both win.

not sure CV can produce what I am suggesting, not without understanding and
experiencing qualia itself, which Elizier wants to avoid (since he claims to
want to create a non-sentient AI).

> With my current knowledge I'm not willing at all to put this massive
gamble on
> an AI with a qualia-based morality.

As has been said before, it's a gamble anyway. But if I screw up we are
still left with paradise, it's a good plan B :)

> I would go farther and claim that they aren't detached from the process at

parts of them are detached from the process, I could be here talking about
qualia and not really 'feeling' them.

> It is imho self-evident for certain qualias because evolution hardcoded
it. Does
> yellow have a self-evident positive or negative nature?

Some qualia are mostly neutral or only take on a value if associated with
other qualia. For example you can have very pleasant sensations of color
when you look at something beautiful. But yellow in itself... slightly
positive I guess, not _that_ positive.


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