Back and forth thread about
Z: The atoms in my brain don’t have to know how to read Chinese. They only
» need to know how to be carbon, nitrogen, oxygen etc. atoms. The complex
» behaviour which is reading Chinese comes from the interaction of billions of
» these atoms doing their simple thing.
S33: I don’t think that is true. The other way around makes just as much sense if
> not more: Reading Chinese is a simple behavior which drives the behavior of
> billions of atoms to do a complex interaction. To me, it has to be both
> bottom-up and top-down. It seems completely arbitrary prejudice to presume
> one over the other just because we think that we understand the bottom-up so well.
> Once you can see how it is the case that it must be both bottom-up and
> top-down at the same time, the next step is to see that there is no
> possibility for it to be a cause-effect relationship, but rather a dual
> aspect ontological relation. Nothing is translating the functions of neurons
> into a Cartesian theater of experience - there is nowhere to put it in the
> tissue of the brain and there is no evidence of a translation from neural
> protocols to sensorimotive protocols - they are clearly the same thing.
Z: If there is a top-down effect of the mind on the atoms then there we
would expect some scientific evidence of this.
S33: These words are a scientific evidence of this. The atoms of my brain are being manipulated from the top down. I am directly projecting what I want to say through my mind in such a way that the atoms of my brain facilitate changes in the tissues of my body. Fingers move. Keys click.
constitute, for example, neurons firing when measurements of
transmembrane potentials, ion concentrations etc. suggest that they
S33: Do not neurons fire when I decide to type?
What you are expecting would be nothing but another homunculus. If there was some special sauce oozing out of your neurons which looked like…what? pictures of me moving my fingers? How would that explain how I am inside those pictures? The problem is that you are committed to the realism of cells and neurons over thoughts and feelings - even when we understand that our idea of neurons are themselves only thoughts and feelings. This isn’t a minor glitch, it is The Grand Canyon.
What has to be done is to realize that thoughts and feelings cannot be made out of forms and functions, but rather forms and functions are what thoughts and feelings look like from an exterior, impersonal perspective. The thoughts and feelings are the full-spectrum phenomenon, the forms and functions a narrow band of that spectrum. The narrowness of that band is what maximizes the universality of it. Physics is looking a slice of experience across all phenomena, effectively amputating all of the meaning and perceptual inertia which has accumulated orthogonally to that slice. This is the looong way around when it comes to consciousness as consciousness is all about the longitudinal history of experience, not the spatial-exterior mechanics of the moment.
Z: You claim that such anomalous behaviour of neurons and
other cells due to consciousness is widespread, yet it has never been
experimentally observed. Why?
S33: If there were any anomalous behavior of neurons, they would STILL require another meta-level of anomalous behaviors to explain them. Whatever level of description you choose for human consciousness - the brain, the body, the extended body, CNS, neurons, molecules, atoms, quanta… it DOESN’T MATTER AT ALL to the hard problem. There is still NO WAY for us to be inside of those descriptions, and even if there were, there is no conceivable purpose for ‘our’ being there in the first place.
This isn’t a cause for despair or giving up, it is a triumph of insight. It is to see that the world is round if you are far away from it, but flat if you are on the surface. You keep trying to say that if the world were round you would see anomalous dips and valleys where the Earth begins to curve. You are not getting it. Reality is exactly what it seems to be, and it is many other things as well. Just because our understanding brings us sophisticated views of what we are from the outside in does not in any way invalidate the supremacy of the realism which we rely on from the inside out to even make sense of science.
Z: If the atoms in my brain were put into a Chinese-reading configuration,
» either through a lot of work learning the language or through direct
» manipulation, then I would be able to understand Chinese.
S33: It’s understandable to assume that, but no I don’t think it’s like that. You
> can’t transplant a language into a brain instantaneously because there is no
> personal history of association. Your understanding of language is not a
> lookup table in space, it is made out of you. It’s like if you walked around
> with Google translator in your brain. You could enter words and phrases and
> turn them into you language, but you would never know the language first
> hand. The knowledge would be impersonal - accessible, but not woven into
> your proprietary sense.
Z: I don’t mean putting an extra module into the brain, I mean putting
the brain directly into the same configuration it is put into by
learning the language in the normal way.
S33: That can’t be done. It’s like saying you will put New York City directly in the same configuration as Shanghai. It’s meaningless. Even if you could move the population of Shanghai to New York or demolish New York and rebuild it in the shape of Shanghai, it wouldn’t matter because consciousness develops through time. It is made of significance which accumulates through sense experience - *not just ‘data’*.
Z: I’m sorry, but this whole passage is a non sequitur as far as the fading
» qualia thought experiment goes. You have to explain what you think would
» happen if part of your brain were replaced with a functional equivalent.
S33: There is no functional equivalent. That’s what I am saying. Functional
> equivalence when it comes to a person is a non-sequitur. Not only is every
> person unique, they are an expression of uniqueness itself. They define
> uniqueness in a never-before-experienced way. This is a completely new way
> of understanding consciousness and signal. Not as mechanism, but as
Z: A functional equivalent would stimulate the remaining neurons the same as
» the part that is replaced.
> S33: No such thing. Does any imitation function identically to an original?
Z: In a thought experiment we can say that the imitation stimulates the
surrounding neurons in the same way as the original.
S33: Then the thought experiment is garbage from the start. It begs the question. Why not just say we can have an imitation human being that stimulates the surrounding human beings in the same way as the original? Ta-da! That makes it easy. Now all we need to do is make a human being that stimulates their social matrix in the same way as the original and we have perfect AI without messing with neurons or brains at all. Just make a whole person out of person stuff - like as a thought experiment suppose there is some stuff X which makes things that human beings think is another human being. Like marzipan. We can put the right pheromones in it and dress it up nice, and according to the thought experiment, let’s say that works.
You aren’t allowed to deny this because then you don’t understand the thought experiment, see? Don’t you get it? You have to accept this flawed pretext to have a discussion that I will engage in now. See how it works? Now we can talk for six or eight months about how human marzipan is inevitable because it wouldn’t make sense if you replaced a city gradually with marzipan people that New York would gradually fade into less of a New York or that New York becomes suddenly absent. It’s a fallacy. The premise screws up the result.
Z: We can even say
that it does this miraculously. Would such a device *necessarily*
replicate the consciousness along with the neural impulses, or could
the two be separated?
S33: Would the marzipan Brooklyn necessarily replicate the local TV and Radio along with the traffic on the street or could the two be separated? Neither. The whole premise is garbage because both Brooklyn and brain are made of living organisms who are aware of their description of the universe. We can’t imitate their description of the universe because we can only get our own description of our measuring instruments description of their exterior descriptions.
Z: The original paper says this is a computer chip but this is not necessary
» to make the point: we could just say that it is any device, not being the
» normal biological neurons. If consciousness is substrate-dependent (as you
» claim) then the device could do its job of stimulating the neurons normally
» while lacking or differing in consciousness. Since it stimulates the neurons
» normally you would behave normally. If you didn’t then it would be a
» miracle, since your muscles would have to contract normally. Do you at least
» see this point, or do you think that your muscles would do something
S33: I see the point completely. That’s the problem is that you keep trying to
> explain to me what is obvious, while I am trying to explain to you something
> much more subtle and sophisticated. I can replace neurons which control my
> muscles because muscles are among the most distant and replaceable parts of
> ‘me’. These nerves are outbound efferent nerves and the target muscle cells
> are for the most part willing servants. The same goes for amputating my arm.
> I can replace it in theory. What I am saying though is that amputating my
> head is not even theoretically possible. Wherever my head is, that is where
> I have to be. If I replace my brain with other parts, the more parts there
> are the less of me there is left.
>The brain isn’t like a computer though.
> You can’t just pull out something and then put it back in if it doesn’t
> work. In the brain, as soon as you screw it up, you get coma, death,
> dementia, stroke, etc. It’s part of a living creature made of smaller living
> creatures. It doesn’t matter how closely you think your substitute brain
> acts like my brain, I am never going to be found in your substitute brain,
> and the substitute brain will never even get close to working properly.
> Computers do not work very well. Every time I turn on my phone there
> are like 25 updates, and I hardly do anything with it. Can you imagine how
> unreliable a network the size of a synthetic brain would be? How easy it
> would be to halt the thalamus program and kill you? It’s wildly
> overconfident and factually misguided to think of the self and the brain in
> these terms. I see it like 19th century Jules Verne sci-fi now. It’s just
> silly and every week there are more studies which suggest that our
> neuroscientific models continue to be more and more inadequate. They don’t
> add up.
Z: As I said, technical problems with computers are not relevant to the
argument. The implant is just a device that has the correct timing of
neural impulses. Would it necessarily preserve consciousness?
The timing of neural impulses can only be made completely correct by direct experience. The implant can’t work as a source of consciousness on a personal level, only as band-aid on a sub-personal level. Making a person out of band-aids doesn’t work.