[FoRK] Why is there any experience of it, at all? (was: GEB, etc.)

Lion Kimbro <lionkimbro at gmail.com> on Mon Jul 9 16:49:37 PDT 2007

  Thanks, Russel.

  When I'm saying "subjective," (versus "objective,")
  I am making a distinction between subjective experience,
  vs. unexperienced information (if there is any,) rather than
  "something happening within my skull, that you can't see,
  because you don't have x-ray vision that can look at
  neurons," vs. "something happening outside of my skull,
  that we can all look at, and agree on."

  subjective1:  subjective experience
  objective1:  unknowable other / unexperienced information

  (I don't think there could be any such thing as an "objective
   experience," within this use of the word;  I don't know what
   such a thing could even mean.)

  subjective2:  something happening within my skull,
    that you can't see, because you don't have x-ray vision
    that can look at neurons,
  objective2:  something happening outside of my skull,
    that we can all look at, and agree on

  I'm happy to entertain, for the purpose of conversation and
  so on, miniature nanites, that can look at all of our neurons,
  and track their state and motion and electrical firings and
  so on.

  This nicely obliterates subjective2 vs. objective2,
  and leaves us with only subjective1 vs. objective1,
  which is the distinction I care about.


  The soulless zombies have neurons and they
  fire and so on and so forth, and we can understand that
  complex machinery, perfectly fine, objectively, from the
  outside.

  What we can't get at, is whether there's any "subjective1"
  experience at work in there.  If we made a machine that could
  detect that, we'd have to build it with certain assumptions about
  "where do we find consciousness" and so on.  We couldn't
  really, like, touch it, or poke at it, and hear it shriek, or something
  like that.  (Because zombies shriek as well.)

  When a zombie says, "I see red," it's like when your digital
  camera says, "I see red," just a lot more complicated semantics
  and consideration going into that.  (It may also think of roses,
  and so on, if we're talking at the level of abstraction where we
  can say "the zombie thinks," and so on.)

  Zombies have rich, inner lives, as per subjectivity2.
  There are no lights on inside though;  Nothing is experiencing
  those rich inner lives.

  It is like Tolkien:  It's a book on a shelf, detailing lots of
  happenings.  But if nobody reads it, nothing happens, and
  nobody experienced it.  It doesn't matter whether it's a description
  of what a character thought or felt, or if it's a description of
  how something moved, or what happened when a sword
  struck an anvil, and so on.  That subjective2 vs. objective2
  distinction is just as meaningless, without experience.

  > "Of course, it's also possible that most or
  > all of us are soulless zombies."

  It is!

  But I am optimistic, and tend to agree with Jaron Lanier,
  when he cited a Navajo proverb:

  "It is impossible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep."

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