Re: The return of the revenge of qualia, part VI.

From: Michael Wilson (
Date: Thu Jul 21 2005 - 21:15:13 MDT

Tennessee Leeuwenburg wrote:
> I agree with him when he says, "This should be obvious; memorising
> detailed instructions on how to ride a bicycle does not immediately
> grant you the ability to ride a bike competently, because you cannot
> deliberatively modify your neural circuitry with an act of will."
> But that is precisely what is interesting. A human cannot understand
> logically everything that they can learn, nor can they describe with
> phyics everything that is immanent (loosely, "real") to them. This
> is, per se, interesting. This is where the debate lies.

Why are you intent on glamourising this relatively straightforward
cognitive architecture limitation with metaphysics?

> She can make new qualitative predictions. Even if I were to accept
> (which I don't), that minds are reducible to brains, perfect physical
> knowledge could stil only make predictions at the physical level.

This statement is incorrect. If you accept that a brain could be
simulated to an arbitrary degree of accuracy, then we can look at
exactly what is going on in the simulation; we can work out what
the human would report and what the internal sensations would be at
any desired level of abstraction, in any desired system of
cateogrisation/quantisation. We can give the human a verbal
description that we calculate (via more modelling) will generate the
closest approximation to what they'd actually experience, and in
principle we can use invasive methods to directly cause the human
to experience the relevant sensations, bypassing any irrelevant lower
sensory areas.

We can already do a few of these things, crudely, yet dualists
persist in ignoring the evidence. I look forward to the wails of
anguish that will emmenate from them after we develop the capability
to do truely impressive brain-modelling and self-modification.

> Physics, for example, doesn't enable to me understand what language
> means, nor does merely understanding the grammar and syntax and
> symbolism of a language allow me to use it.

This is a limit of your inferential capability, not any flaw in the
materialist position.

> If consciousness is our inner life, and qualia is what that
> consciousness is like, then a machine without qualia is a machine
> without an inner life.

'Inner life' is a near-meaningless term for characteristing cognitive
architectures. An AGI might and probably will lack the kind of
reflective shortcomings that make human sensation so mysterious;
whether this translates to a lack of something fundemental and
important that human sensation has I can't say yet. I agree that
snuffing out the illusion of qualia /might/ be a really bad thing
from the standpoint of human morals, and thus may be an ethical
issue for transhumans.

 * Michael Wilson

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