[time 260] Re: Other Minds

Stephen P. King (stephenk1@home.com)
Tue, 27 Apr 1999 11:33:51 -0400

Dear Jerry,

        I'm cross posting this to the List...

> Jerry Malsam wrote:
> In response to your Other Minds ICQ (you dropped off-line):
> Because they *tell* you they are: I communicate, therefore I am.

        We forget about the 'delay' involved: "I communicate, therefore I was"
;) This is somewhat of a subtlety...
> The problem is that "consciousness" has virtually no definition, so you
> can't measure it or otherwise determine its existance except to ask, "Uh,
> are you conscious?" First, give me a definition that doesn't presume that
> only humans are conscious before you go testing for (and making conclusions
> re:) consciousness in non-humans.

        We first acknowledge that in order for consciousness to be possible
there must be a separation between "subject" and "object". The "subject"
needs to be able to distinguish it-self from what it is observing, in
the sense that the "what is conscious" is not the "what is conscious
of", otherwise the question is mute.
        We also see that consiousness is not a "thing" in the usual sense of
the word, it is an action -an act- it is something that something does.
When we speak of our own "consciousness" we are reflecting on the sum of
impressions that where had, but these are not 'it", they are just
impressions -data.
        I think that we can think coherently about consciousness in terms of
information, or more specifically the recognition of non-trivial
patterns in signals. Pattern recognition is an identification of one set
of objects with another, it is a mapping of one set into another up to
the isomorphism of onto. We would say A and B are sets of points: A =
{a_i}, B = {b_i}. Mapping A into B is the identification of points a_i
with b_i but not all. Onto mapping is {A} = {B}.

> What's the difference between "consciousness" and "thought"?

        The difference is reflexion and prediction; thought is the action of
modeling expectations given some data. Consciousness is merely the
mapping of external data to internal data (in memory). (I think... ;) )
> --Jerry

        You asked about the proof of god by an individual's "feelings; I agree,
but the subjectiveness of "feelings" like any other first-person qualia
(e.g. what the individual "actually" observes vs. that he can
communicate about) is unknowable. It is so, because otherwise there
would be no separation of identity, e.g. If I could feel exactly what
you feel, I would be you!
        We can't shift our awareness to one that exactly matches that of
another person...

>not *perfectly* measureable, just like everything else. But I think "unknowable" is taking it a bit far.

        A good point! Maybe the error is what distinguishes identity! Where
identity is the sense of being separate from the object of
consciouness... We can see that an infinite Universe allows for an
infinity of possible finite impressions and thus an infinite number of
separate minds.

>simple questions. I guess the simple questions are the hard ones. How do you know that a "babbling" Chinese >man is any more conscious than, oh, say a dog? A dog knows enough to get out of the way of a car (usually), >even though it may never have been hit by one. How?

        We infer that the babbling man is "intensional" in his actions, e.g.
that the movement of his mouth are the result of computing an action
that is expected to have a reaction. (This computation need not be
considered as an object of consiousness!) This inference is grounded on
expectations, given past perseptions. The dog (hopefully) moves out of
the way of the car because of a reflex, constructed by the blind forces
of mutation and selection. (But, can we really say that our actions are
not just the same thing with a few more delay loops thrown in!)

        Let's iterate this some... we might be able to make it more precise...



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