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

Lion Kimbro <lionkimbro at gmail.com> on Tue Jul 10 08:41:53 PDT 2007

On 7/10/07, Russell Turpin <deafbox at hotmail.com> wrote:
> I wrote:
> >>But that question cuts both ways. I have no proof that I am not a
> >>philosophical zombie.
>
> Lion Kimbro:
> >In fact, if you have any doubts, I think that you should just out and say,
> >"I'm not conscious, I'm not aware, I'm not having an experience; Not like
> >you're talking about.
>
> It's precisely that last five words that leaves me a bit flummoxed.

  Right;  I think your root problem is that you have glasses on,
  that only let you see the world from an objective perspective.

  That is, I think that you "discount" anything subjective, just
  automatically, and insist on lines of argument that operate completely
  in objective spaces.

  Unfortunately, this puts you in a bad position for the account of
  consciousness.


> We were just discussing that a zombie has consciousness of a sort,
> that its behavior requires a cognitive architecture whereby parts of
> it are aware of its sensations and other aspects of its inner life, in
> a way that a fly, for example, is not. Let's call this Z-consciousness.
> When a zombie says, "I am consious and aware," there is no reason to
> think it is either lying or just mouthing words it doesn't understand.

  Right, and we can't differentiate a zombie and a human from the
  outside.


> Now, if you were to tell that zombie, "why not just say you're not
> conscious, at least, not like I'm talking about," I can imagine it
> might respond, quite truthfully: "How am I to distinguish how I am
> conscious from the way you are conscious? How am to know they are
> different?"

  Presently, honestly?

  The way you know, is:

  * You're like, 7 years old, or something.
  * You study computers a lot.
  * You want to talk about this notion you have of experience,
    and the doubt you have about whether your programs experience
    or not.

  That is, it just comes "automatically."

  Some adults get what you're saying, and you find that they have
  developed arguments that are exactly identical to yourself.

  And other adults don't get it at all, and you find yourself falling
  into a common pattern of argument.

  And other adults embrace your arguments, and give you a bunch
  of religious lines, and you just have to sort of go away from them,
  and you notice that they haven't really discovered the arguments
  that you've come up with.

  This, presently, is how the difference has emerged out for me.

  Somebody on this list emailed me, and wanted to tell me, privately,
  that I've been infected by a parasite.

  I, however, do not believe it.  I note that I actually experience.

  I can easily envision futures where the "conscious" are locked
  away for a heresy, or something.
  Regardless, there it is.


  I have, in my days, noticed that there *are* some things that I can
  say, definitely, about consciousness.  There are some properties,
  that I can describe, that people who are also consciousness, can
  notice, and say, "Ah, right, I recognize that thing."

  So, if you've "seen Consciousness," before, you can go, "Oh, yes,
  I know that thing."  If you haven't, it's all a mystery.


  I'll give a partial sampling:

  * a single moment

    This thing, "Consciousness," only lives in **a single moment.**
    It never lives in the past, and it never lives in the future.
    Rather, it's always on this sort of "cutting edge," that is the
    locus of experience.

  * waxes and wanes

    This thing, "Consciousness," seems to wax and wane.
    There can be "more consciousness," there can be "less
    consciousness."  For example, we sleep, and we wake up.

  * co-existent with the experienced

    Consciousness **never** stands alone.  Consciousness is just
    one end of a thing with two ends.  This thing I label,
    "an experience."  The experience has two ends, Consciousness,
    and then (I will call it,) "the experienced."

    You can think of it as something of a frame-buffer, or sound-buffer,
    and what not.

    This whole construction (an "experience") shares the various
    other constraints of consciousness-- it waxes and wanes, it lives
    in a single moment, and so on, and so forth.

  * atomic

    Perhaps it's divisible, but consciousness can only ever follow
    one single track.  If your consciousness were split into two, for
    example, the consciousness (what you are) could

  * experience is asymmetric

    The end of experience that is Consciousness, *it never changes.*
    (Though, if it *does* change, there's no way we could no it!)
    There's something "fixed" about it.
    The end of experience that is "experienced," it is something
    that *keeps on changing.*

  * It's "me."

    It's universally recognized (amongst those who understand
    what the hell I'm talking about) that the unchanging side is
    "me," in a way that is deeper than anything on the experienced
    side.

    So, for example, if I am in a good mood or a bad mood, that's
    all stuff that is experienced, and changing.

    But there Consciousness is on the other end of the pole,
    and that's the part that's more fundamentally "me."

  * It's incommunicable.

    That is, you can't show anybody your Consciousness
    credentials.  (Because the medium of interaction
    is all in the world of the experienced.)


  So, this is a list of properties.  And you ask the potential Zombie,
  "Have you ever bothered to notice anything that, say, you know,
   meets these properties?"

  And if they say, "YES!", enthusiastically, and you hear the arguments
  that they get into, and such, then you can go, "Okay, I think this
  guy is a guy, and not a zombie."

  And if they start quibbling with you, and try to make all these
  arguments that are just totally out there, trying to make these
  semantic hoops to avoid the obvious, and so on, then you go,
  "Okay, I think this guy is a guy, pretending to be a zombie,
   because he recognizes that he'd have to admit some problems
   to his world view, if there were differences between zombies
   and people.
   Or, it's honest to god, just a zombie."

  That's how I do it.

  It's not fool proof, because-- you can't share credentials.

  But, I've chosen to take on faith that, if someone flashes the
  right badges and responds the right way, "You're conscious."
  Or, even if they argue contrary, but they're basically intelligent,
  "You're conscious, and that just bugs you, so you're pretending
   to be a zombie."


  That's how it works.

  Any problems with that, anybody?  {;D}=

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