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"On the contrary, most people don't care whether it is conscious in some deep philosophical sense."

Do you mean that people don't care if they are philosophical zombies or not? I think they care very much. I also think that you're eliding the point a bit by using "deep" as a way to hand wave the problem away. The problem of consciousness is not some arcane issue that only matters to philosophers in their ivory towers. It is difficult. It is unsolved. And... and this is important. it is a very large problem, so large that we should not spend decades exploring false leads. I believe strong AI proponents have wasted 40 years of time and energy pursuing a ill advised research program. Resources that could have better been spent in more productive ways.

That's why I think this is so important. You have to get things right, get your basic "vector" right otherwise you'll get lost because the problem is so large once you make a mistake about what it is you are doing you're done for. The "brain stabbers" are in my opinion headed in the right direction. The "let's throw more parallel processors connected in novel topologies at it" crowd are not.

"Moreover, the primary worry discussed on LW as far as AI is concerned is that the AI will bootstrap itself in a way that results in a very unpleasant bad singularity."

Sounds like more magical thinking if you ask me. Is bootstrapping a real phenomenon? In the real world is there any physical process that arises out of nothing?

"And yes, I am familiar with behaviorism in the sense that is discussed in that section. But it still isn't an attempt to explain consciousness."

Yes it is. In every lecture I have heard when the history of the philosophy of mind is recounted the behaviorism of the 50's and early 60's it's main arguments for and against it as an explanation of consciousness are given. This is just part of the standard literature. I know that cognitive/behavioral therapeutic models are in wide use and very successful but that is simply beside the point here.

"So I don't follow you at all here, and it doesn't even look like there's any argument you've made here other than just some sort of conclusion."

Are you kidding!??? It was nothing BUT argument. Here, let me make it more explicit.

Premise 1 "If it is raining, Mr. Smith will use his umbrella." Premise 2 "It is raining" Conclusion "therefore Mr. Smith will use his umbrella."

That is a behaviorist explanation for consciousness. It is logically valid but still fails because we all know that Mr. Smith just might decide not to use his umbrella. Maybe that day he decides he likes getting wet. You cannot deduce intent from behavior. If you cannot deduce intent from behavior then behavior cannot constitute intentionality.

"So, on LW there's a general expectation of civility, and I suspect that that general expectation doesn't go away when one punctuates with a winky-emoticon."

It's a joke hun. I thought you would get the reference to Ned Block's counter argument to behaviorism. It shows how an unconscious machine could pass the Turing test. I'm pretty sure that Steven Moffat must have been aware of it and created the Teselecta.

Suppose we build a robot and instead of robot brain we put in a radio receiver. The robot can look and move just like any human. Suppose then that we take the nation of China and give everyone a transceiver and a rule they must follow. For each individual if they receive as input state S1 they will then output state S2. They are all connected in a functional flowchart that perfectly replicates a human brain. The robot then looks moves and above all talks just like any human being. It passes the Turing test.

Is "Blockhead" (the name affectionately given to this robot) conscious?

No it is not. A non-intelligent machine passes the behaviorist Turing test for an intelligent AI. Therefore behaviorism cannot explain consciousness and an intelligent AI could never be constructed from a database of behaviors. (Which is essentially what all attempts at computer AI consist of. A database and a set of rules for accessing them.)

"Is this a variant of what it is like to be a bat?"

Is there something that it is like to be you? There are also decent arguments that qualia does matter. It is hardly a settled matter. If anything, the philosophical consensus is that qualia is important.

"Whether some AI has qualia or not doesn't change any of the external behavior,"

Yes, behaviorism is a very attractive solution. But presumably what people want is a living conscious artificial mind and not a useful house maid in robot form. I can get that functionality right now.

If I write a program that allows my PC to speak in perfect English and in a perfectly human voice can my computer talk to me? Can it say hello? Yes it can, Can it greet me hello? No, it cannot because it cannot intend to say hello.

"Behaviorism as that word is classically defined isn't an attempt to explain consciousness."

Wikipedia? Really? Did you even bother to read the page or are you just pointing to something on wikipedia and believing that constitutes an argument? Look at section 5 "Behaviorism in philosophy". Read that and follow the link to the Philosophy of Mind article. Read that. You will discover that behaviorism was at one time thought to be a valid theory of mind. That all we needed to do to explain human behavior was to describe human behavior.

"If it is raining, Mr. Smith will use his umbrella. It is raining, therefore Mr. Smith will use his umbrella." Is this a valid deduction? No, it isn't because consciousness is not behavior only.

If you are a fan of Doctor Who, is the Teselecta conscious? Is there something that it is like to be the Teselecta? My answer is no, there is nothing it is like to be a robot piloted by miniature people emulating the behavior of a real conscious person.

Don't be a blockhead. ;)

That is correct, you don't know what semantic content is.

"I still don't know what makes you so sure conciousness is impossible on an emulator."

For the same reason that I know simulated fire will not burn anything. In order for us to create an artificial mind, which certainly must be possible, we must duplicate the causal relations that exist in real consciousnesses.

Let us imagine that you go to your doctor and he says, "You're heart is shot. We need to replace it. Lucky for you we have miniature super computer we can stick into your chest that can simulate the pumping action of a real heart down to the atomic level. Every atom, every material, every gasket of a real pump is precisely emulated to an arbitrary degree of accuracy."

"Sign here."

Do you sign the consent form?

Simulation is not duplication. In order to duplicate the causal effects of real world processes it is not enough to represent them in symbolic notation. Which is all a program is. To duplicate the action of a lever on a mass it is not enough to represent that action to yourself on paper or in a computer. You have to actually build a physical lever in the physical world.

In order to duplicate conscious minds, which certainly must be due to the activity of real brains, you must duplicate those causal relations that allow real brains to give rise to the real world physical phenomenon we call consciousness. A representation of a brain is no more a real brain than a representation of a pump will ever pump a single drop of fluid.

None of this means we might not someday build an artificial brain that gives rise to an artificial conscious mind. But it won't be done on a von Neuman machine. It will be done by creating real world objects that have the same causal functions that real world neurons or other structures in real brains do.

How could it be any other way?


The words on this page mean things. They are intended to refer to other things.

"Because the telegraph analogy is actually a pretty decent analogy."

No it isn't. Constructing analogies is for poets and fiction writers. Science does not construct analogies. The force on an accelerating mass isn't analogous to F=ma, it IS F=ma. If what you said is true, that neurons are like telegraph stations and their dendrites the wires then it could not be true that neurons can communicate without a direct connection or "wire" between them. Neurons can communicate without any synaptic connection between them (See: "Neurons Talk Without Synapses"). Therefore the analogy is false.

"What makes you think a sufficiently large number of organized telegraph lines won't act like a brain?"

Because that is an example of magical thinking. It is not based on a functional understanding of the phenomenon. "If I just pour more of chemical A into solution B I will get a bigger and better reaction." We are strongly attracted to thinking like that. It's probably why it took us thousands of years to really get how to do science properly.

"What do you mean by "strong AI is refuted""

The strong AI hypothesis is that consciousness is the software running on the hardware of the brain. Therefore one does not need to know or understand how brains actually work to construct a living conscious mind. Thus any system that implements the right computer program with the right inputs and outputs has cognition in exactly the same literal sense that human beings have understanding, thought and memory. It was the belief of strong AI proponents such as Marvin Minski at MIT and others that they were literally creating minds when writing their programs. They felt no need to stoop so low as to poke around in actual brains and get their hands dirty.

Computers are syntactical machines. The programs they execute are pure syntax and have no semantic content. Meaning is assigned, it is not intrinsic to symbolic logic. That is it's strength. Since (1) programs are pure syntax and have no semantic content and (2) minds do have semantic content and (3) syntax is neither sufficient for nor constitutive of semantics. It must follow that programs are not by themselves constitutive of, nor sufficient for, minds. The strong AI hypothesis is false.

Which means that IBM is wasting time, energy and money. But.... perhaps their efforts will result in spin off technology so not all is lost.

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