Intelligent Design

We Cannot, in Principle, “Know” Whether a Machine is Conscious

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Most people who frequent these pages are familiar with the Turing Test.  Turing proposed that a judge would evaluate text responses from a machine and a human.  If the judge could not tell which was human, the machine would have passed the test.  The Turing Test measures machine intelligence based on a communication metric.  In other words, if the AI can talk like a human, it is as intelligent as a human.

Some researchers, like our own Robert Marks, think the Turing Test is too easy.  They say creativity, not mere communication, is the real measure of human intelligence, and they have advanced the “Lovelace Test” as a superior alternative.  An AI would pass the Lovelace Test by doing something “surprising.”  For example, the AI could be asked to write a story, and the AI would pass if the programmer could not explain how the AI come up with the story.  The AI would, itself, be considered creative, as opposed to an extension of its creator’s creativity (as is the case with chess and Go playing computers).

If an AI were able to pass both the Turing Test and the Lovelace Test, would we then know it is conscious in the same way humans are conscious?  No.  The reason for this conclusion, which might be surprising for some, is simple.  We can’t “know” that even other humans are conscious; far less can we know that an AI is conscious.

Whoa Barry.  Get a grip.  Are you suggesting that you do not know other humans are conscious?  In a sense, Yes I am.  By its very nature, consciousness, as evidenced by subjective self-awareness, can be known only by subjective experience.  And I can have subjective experience only of my own self.  I cannot be subjectively self-aware of any other self.  It follows, that I can be certain only of my own consciousness.

Of course, by no means am I denying that other humans are conscious.  I feel confident they are.  I am merely saying that I can experience only my own consciousness.  My own experience of consciousness is the primary evidence of the fact that I am conscious.  I cannot have primary evidence that any other person is conscious.  I can infer to a very high degree of confidence that other humans are conscious, but that inference is based on secondary evidence.  To use a crude example, I regard my own empathy as an attribute of my consciousness.  When my wife cries at the end of Old Yeller, I infer from this outward reaction that she also has empathy.  And from this I infer further that her empathy is an attribute of her consciousness just as mine is, and therefore she in fact is conscious.  But I cannot know that she is in the same way that I know that I am.  Conceivably, my wife is an AI programmed to shed tears when a beloved pet dies.  I am very confident that is not the case, but I cannot know it for certain.

These are not original ideas.  There is a large literature based on the concept of the “philosophical zombie” based on the insight that we cannot experience another person’s consciousness; we can only infer it.  If we can only infer (and not know) another human is consciousness, it follows that no matter how sophisticated an AI is, we can never know that it is conscious.  If an AI becomes so powerful that we cannot distinguish it from a human, we might infer that it is conscious, but we will never be able to know it for certain.

46 Replies to “We Cannot, in Principle, “Know” Whether a Machine is Conscious

  1. 1
    Bob O'H says:

    Whoa Barry. Get a grip.

    Indeed, Barry. I agree with you.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, the issue pivots on what we mean by knowledge and by certainty. Both come in degrees, this is the issue of warrant. We are self evidently certain of our own consciousness, undeniably so. But we may be morally certain that others are similarly conscious, so that it would be irresponsible to treat them as mere empty zombie-bots. turning to machines, why would we even entertain that such would be more than sophisticated calculating machines, apart from an implicit notion that matter, suitably arranged, becomes conscious. The empirical, observational evidence for such is nil. where, if sufficiently clever programming and hardware were to compose a de novo story or the like, we may have a certain degree of artificial intelligence, but this is not to be equated to consciousness. Instead we have a problem that traces to the issue of presumed materialism, often lab coat clad. But evolutionary materialism is also self-referentially absurd in many ways so despite its social power the presumption is ill-founded. Consciousness is yet another sign that reality is more than the materialists suppose. KF

  3. 3
    doubter says:

    “We can’t “know” that even other humans are conscious; far less can we know that an AI is conscious.”

    I agree that this is the case, up to a certain degree. What you leave out is other modalities of communication, namely telepathy. A very large body of research in parapsychology, and many (unusual) everyday experiences, attest to the reality of this paranormal phenomenon.

    If telepathic communication were established between humans and an AI system, this would be confirmation by direct perception of the real existence of self-aware consciousness on the part of the AI system. Also, of course, the existence of telepathy with other living humans is confirmation of the true consciousness of these other humans. Naturally, materialists reject the reality of this mode of communication, along with all other aspects of the paranormal.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Despite Bob’s somewhat flippant remark, the argument from personal conscious experience, that Barry highlighted, is particularly devastating to Atheistic presuppositions. And, if atheists were ever honest in their reflections, should cause atheists to seriously reconsider their beliefs.

    First off. in establishing this ‘argument from consciousness’ it is important to point out that the concept of “I”, i.e. personhood, simply does not exist in the atheist’s materialistic worldview,

    “that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.”
    Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994

    8.) The argument from personal existence
    1. If naturalism is true, I do not exist.
    2. I do exist!
    3. Therefore naturalism is not true.
    William Lane Craig – Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    “I’m not arguing that consciousness is a reality beyond science or beyond the brain or that it floats free of the brain at death. I’m not making any spooky claims about its metaphysics. What I am saying, however, is that the self is an illusion. The sense of being an ego, an I, a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts. An experiencer in addition to the experience. The sense that we all have of riding around inside our heads as a kind of a passenger in the vehicle of the body. That’s where most people start when they think about any of these questions. Most people don’t feel identical to their bodies. They feel like they have bodies. They feel like they’re inside the body. And most people feel like they’re inside their heads. Now that sense of being a subject, a locus of consciousness inside the head is an illusion. It makes no neuro-anatomical sense.”
    Sam Harris: The Self is an Illusion
    – per youtube video

    Eagleton on Baggini on free will
    Excerpt: “What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.””
    Jerry Coyne
    per whyevolutionistrue

    Nature, as Defined Today, Cannot Be All There Is – Denyse O’Leary – October 17, 2017
    Excerpt: Thus, when we hear that evolution bred a sense of reality out of us (NPR), our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions (Quanta), there is no “I” in “me,” (Sam Harris), our experiences of being and having a body are “‘controlled hallucinations’ of a very distinctive kind” (Aeon),,,,
    Jim Carrey summed it up best in a recent interview: “There is no me, there’s just things happening” ,,,
    – per ENV

    “There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. Every morning’s introspectively fantasized self is a new one, remarkably similar to the one that consciousness ceased fantasizing when we fell sleep sometime the night before. Whatever purpose yesterday’s self thought it contrived to set the alarm last night, today’s newly fictionalized self is not identical to yesterday’s. It’s on its own, having to deal with the whole problem of why to bother getting out of bed all over again.,,,
    – A.Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, ch.10

    At the 23:33 minute mark of the following video, Richard Dawkins agrees with materialistic philosophers who say that:
    “consciousness is an illusion”
    A few minutes later Rowan Williams asks Dawkins ”If consciousness is an illusion…what isn’t?”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWN4cfh1Fac&t=22m57s

    “(Daniel) Dennett concludes, ‘nobody is conscious … we are all zombies’.”
    J.W. SCHOOLER & C.A. SCHREIBER – Experience, Meta-consciousness, and the Paradox of Introspection – 2004

    Moreover, nobody, especially atheists, has the slightest clue how anything material can ever possibly become conscious and have a personal conscious experience:

    “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness.”
    – Jerry Fodor – Rutgers University philosopher
    [2] Fodor, J. A., Can there be a science of mind? Times Literary Supplement. July 3, 1992, pp5-7.

    “Every day we recall the past, perceive the present and imagine the future. How do our brains accomplish these feats? It’s safe to say that nobody really knows.”
    Sebastian Seung – Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist – “Connectome”:

    “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.”
    Roger Wolcott Sperry – Nobel neurophysiologist
    As quoted in Genius Talk : Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries (1995) by Denis Brian

    “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.”
    – Eugene Wigner – Nobel prize-winner – Quantum Symmetries

    “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”
    Nick Herbert – Contemporary physicist

    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”
    – Larry Dossey – Physician and author

    And thus, as an atheist, herein lies the problem for you Bob. You tell me that you are a real person, and that your personal subjective opinions on atheism are valid for me to personally accept without question, but, (regardless of the fact that you have no free will under determinism in which to form opinions), exactly how am I to personally know, with complete absolute 100% certainty, that you are not just some type of zombie going through the motions of personhood? i.e. How do I know for certain that you really are having a personal subjective experience?,, Scientifically prove it to me!

    Philosophical Zombies – cartoon
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/11

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Descartes, Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem of Consciousness) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    You see Bob, I know for 100% fact that I really do exist, but there is no way for you ever to ‘scientifically’ prove to me that you really exist as a real person and that you are not just some type of ‘philosophical zombie’ going through the motions of being a real person!

    Such as it is with the atheist’s refusal to ever accept any evidence for the personhood of God.

    As Alvin Plantinga pointed out years ago in “God and Other Minds”,,, “the evidence for God is just as good as the evidence for other minds; and conversely, if there isn’t any evidence for God, then there is also no evidence that other minds exist,,,”

    Another interesting argument comes from the leading philosopher and Christian, Alvin Plantinga—he asked, what evidence does anyone have for the existence of other people’s minds? He argued cogently that the evidence for God is just as good as the evidence for other minds; and conversely, if there isn’t any evidence for God, then there is also no evidence that other minds exist—see God and Other Minds, Cornell University Press, repr. 1990.
    http://creation.com/atheism-is-more-rational

    Thus Bob, we can have just as much confidence in the fact that the Mind of God really exists as we have confidence in our belief that the mind’s of other people really exist.

    One final remark, it is certainly not the case that we do not have more than enough evidence to conclude that the Mind of God really does exist:,, For example, from quantum mechanics we have,,,

    Due to advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either precedes all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.
    Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness: 5 Experiments – video
    https://youtu.be/t5qphmi8gYE

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

    “In materialism all elements behave the same. It is mysterious to think of them as spread out and automatically united. For something to be a whole, it has to have an additional object, say, a soul or a mind.,,, Mind is separate from matter.”
    Kurt Gödel – Hao Wang’s supplemental biography of Gödel, A Logical Journey, MIT Press, 1996. [9.4.12]

    The God of the Mathematicians – Goldman
    Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.”
    – Kurt Gödel – (Gödel is considered one of the greatest logicians who ever existed,, ranking along with Aristotle according to some of Godel’s peers)
    – per firstthings

  5. 5
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF @ 2.

    I do not disagree with anything you say. My point is that even if we were able to someday hundreds of years from now come up with a very very clever machine (I have in mind “Commander Data” of Star Trek Next Generation fame), we would still never know with certainty the machine is conscious.

  6. 6
    Allan Keith says:

    I fully agree with Barry on this. We can’t be certain of the consciousness of other human beings, how are we going to do so for machines?

    But a more interesting question is, if we do build a machine that has all appearances of being as conscious as we perceive other humans to be, would we grant it rights?

  7. 7
    jdk says:

    Very good post, and I also agree with Barry.

    Our own experience of our own consciousness is a unique part of our life. Even though I also accept that other people have a similar sense of their own consciousness, I know that this is in theory unprovable.

    But I act as if everyone has their own internal sense of consciousness, and I can’t imagine thinking and doing otherwise.

  8. 8
    jdk says:

    And I don’t see how Bob’s first post (“Indeed, Barry. I agree with you.”) was flippant.

    And I don’t see how ba77’s post is relevant. Irrespective of whether someone is an atheistic materialist or not, we are assuming that everyone had a the experience of being conscious. I see a blue sky. You see a blue sky. We are conscious of that perception. I don’t see how this fact is changed by what metaphysics one believes in.

    Here’s a question: is a gorilla conscious? We don’t know whether a gorilla, or any other animal is conscious, any more than we know that each other is conscious. But I assume (others may not) that the gorilla is conscious of the blue sky. But the gorilla has no metaphysics. He just sees the blue sky.

  9. 9
    ET says:

    jdk:

    And I don’t see how Bob’s first post (“Indeed, Barry. I agree with you.”) was flippant.

    Of course you wouldn’t. But it was the snide use of a quote-mine which is pretty much the definition of flippant. 😛

    I disagree with the limited view of consciousness because it is too subjective. All tests are conducted to our satisfaction and may not even be valid.

    I really suggest that city people get out in the wild and enjoy it. Witness the animals and what they do. Watch beavers drop a tree more accurately than you could as if it actually planned it all and carried it out. And forget this “instinct” crap. That’s just a word for “we don’t know but we know they ain’t conscious so it has to be something else. we’ll call it instinct.”

    Animals are smarter than people want to give them credit for. Then it amazes us when we see them something that clearly requires planning (or extreme luck). Then the limbic system kicks in and we yell “instinct” as if that solves something.

    To me that would be a sick designer trick-> all animals but humans operate on built-in operating systems only.

    But that’s just me. And seriously get out, go hiking, camping, and observe. Or just move to a rural area and enjoy.

  10. 10
    jdk says:

    I love hiking: Rocky Mountain National Park is my favorite.

    But I think we are using the word “conscious” differently. I am referring to the internal sense of perceiving the world as the foundation of our conscious experience. The beaver sees the tree. That is a preliminary step to deciding to cut the tree down and drag it to his dam. I also agree that the beaver is using intelligence (without the benefit of language) to adjust his behavior to his needs and situation.

    As with all animals, more or less, instinctual behaviors are merged with some level of intelligence to live in the world. Many fascinating studies have been done on animals to differentiate between the two, and to find the limits of adaptability in different species.

    But the foundation of living in the world is being conscious of the world, in terms of perception.

  11. 11
    ET says:

    Umm, your “instinctual behaviors” are most likely the animals consciousness shining through.

    I am referring to the internal sense of perceiving the world as the foundation of our conscious experience.

    True, no other animal could parse that word salad. I think that is a positive for them that they don’t have to.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “But the foundation of living in the world is being conscious of the world, in terms of perception.”

    Welcome to Theism:

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), the main founder of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.

    “In any philosophy of reality that is not ultimately self-defeating or internally contradictory, mind – unlabeled as anything else, matter or spiritual – must be primary. What is “matter” and what is “conceptual” and what is “spiritual” can only be organized from mind. Mind controls what is perceived, how it is perceived, and how those percepts are labeled and organized. Mind must be postulated as the unobserved observer, the uncaused cause simply to avoid a self-negating, self-conflicting worldview. It is the necessary postulate of all necessary postulates, because nothing else can come first. To say anything else comes first requires mind to consider and argue that case and then believe it to be true, demonstrating that without mind, you could not believe that mind is not primary in the first place.”
    – William J. Murray

  13. 13
    jdk says:

    As I pointed out in another post in response to your mention of Chalmers, the nature of consciousness presents a hard problem for both materialism and all dualistic metaphysics, such as theism.

    Over on the bias thread, I wrote,

    First, the hard problem of consciousness exists for any metaphysical position, I think, no matter where it falls on the materialism/theism spectrum: how does the interface between consciousness and the body work? For materialism, the question is how does the material world give rise to internal conscious experience. For the dualist, the question is how does the non-material consciousness causally affect the material body, both in principle and with the great specificity needed. The hard problem is a hard problem for everyone, not one that provides support for one position or another.

    I don’t think acknowledging the reality of consciousness (as I said there, I certainly know that my consciousness is real) defaults to supporting theism.

  14. 14
    jdk says:

    And, as I said in another post recently, the existence of consciousness is one of the reasons I am skeptical about materialism. However, the other half of the hard problem is, among other reasons, a major part of why I am skeptical about dualism (of which theism is just one option).

    Therefore, I am quite agnostic about the nature of consciousness although I’m attracted somewhat to Buddhist notions, which are non-theistic.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    Either Mind is primary and matter is derivative, or else matter is primary and mind is derivative.

    If matter is primary and mind derivative, then catastrophic epistemological failure results.

    Basically the atheist claims he is merely a ‘neuronal illusion’ (Coyne, Dennett), who has the illusion of free will (Harris), who has illusory perceptions of reality (Hoffman), who, since he has no real time empirical evidence substantiating his grandiose claims, must make up illusory “just so stories” with the illusory, and impotent, ‘designer substitute’ of natural selection (Behe, Gould, Sternberg), so as to ‘explain away’ the appearance (i.e. illusion) of design (Crick, Dawkins), and who must make up illusory meanings and purposes for his life since the reality of the nihilism inherent in his atheistic worldview is too much for him to bear, and who must also hold morality to be subjective and illusory since he has rejected God.
    Bottom line, nothing is real in the atheist’s worldview, least of all, morality, meaning and purposes for life.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-ubiquitin-system-functional-complexity-and-semiosis-joined-together/#comment-655355

    Thus, the final somewhat esoteric falsification of Darwinian evolution is the fact that Darwinists have lost any coherent basis for reality and are, in fact, adrift in a world of illusions and imagination with no discernible anchor for reality to grab onto.

    2 Corinthians 10:5
    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ohia-only-human-intelligence-allowed/#comment-655886

    Whereas, if Mind is primary and matter is derivative, then our sanity is preserved.

    Unfortunately, many atheists are willing to cast their sanity to the side and embrace insanity rather than ever embrace God.

    Regardless of their extremely poor choice, besides sanity, science itself is on the Theist’s side:

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

    Due to advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either precedes all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Five intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Double Slit, Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect):
    Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness: 5 Experiments – video
    https://youtu.be/t5qphmi8gYE

    As far as the science is concerned, it is not even close. Theism is a slam dunk!

  16. 16
    jdk says:

    ba77 writes,

    Either Mind is primary and matter is derivative, or else matter is primary and mind is derivative.

    You’re a very dichotomous fellow, ba, but the above is not necessarily true. Mind and matter could be a yin/yang pair, as is held by Taoism. They are one of the many examples (but a primary one) of complementary duality: co-equal aspects of reality, residing dormant in the other when the other is active, but in no way existing independently of the other.

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    I don’t think you are reading for clarity,,,

    That is why I used ‘epi-phenomena’ in my argument from quantum mechanics, i.e. I included in my argument, besides materialism, ALL the worldviews that hold consciousness to be, basically, co-terminus with material reality.

    i.e. My quantum mechanical argument for God from consciousness applies to all worldviews that would seek to challenge Theism.,,, i.e. challenge the Mind of God preceding all of reality.

    As I said, as far as the science is concerned, Theism is a slam dunk.

    Moreover, you are the one claiming that “I don’t believe that any metaphysical system that people believe is “true”: they are creative inventions which we have built to explain things that we can’t truly know about.”

    Thus why in blue blazes are you dissing both materialism and Theism and favoring some type of Eastern mysticism?

    Are you finally settling on a worldview that you will actually try to defend? Or is all this just more pointless posturing on your part where you ignore science in favor of your own personal opinions?

    My bet is on the later!

    Moreover, rumor has it that you are a reincarnated troll,, ‘krebs’,,, Is this true?
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/fixing-the-unfixable-drake-equation/#comment-655986

  18. 18
    ScuzzaMan says:

    “I can infer to a very high degree of confidence that other humans are conscious, but that inference is based on secondary evidence.”

    I think this is where Barry jumped the shark.

    His experience of his own consciousness is, he says, “primary” evidence.

    But somehow his experience of other people is “secondary”.

    No, I don’t think so.

  19. 19

    ScuzzaMan said:

    I think this is where Barry jumped the shark.

    His experience of his own consciousness is, he says, “primary” evidence.

    But somehow his experience of other people is “secondary”.

    No, I don’t think so.

    Direct personal experience is primary and empirical. Someone telling you that they also have direct personal experience is secondary and testimonial in nature.

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    ScuzzaMan @18 – I don’t see how Barry’s experiences of other people’s consciousness can be anything other than secondary. He can’t think other people*s thought for them, at beast he can hear them say what their thoughts are, but I think Barry would argue that that would be secondary evidence (FWIW, that’s what I would argue).

  21. 21
    jdk says:

    ba77 writes,

    Moreover, rumor has it that you are a reincarnated troll,, ‘krebs’,,, Is this true?

    Hmmm, Mr. Cunningham, I definitely don’t believe in reincarnation! 🙂

    1. Several people here know my real name, as I have stated it several times, although I have never posted here under that name. jdk are my initials. I have posted here under other names before I decided to no longer remain anonymous. FTR, I think I posted as hazel and aleta, and perhaps someone else. Over the years I’ve also posted at ISCID and ARN, but that was long ago. I’m not trying to hide anything about who I am.

    2. I have no idea what your definition of troll is. Wikipedia says,

    In Internet slang, a troll (/tro?l, tr?l/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion,[3] often for the troll’s amusement.

    I don’t believe that description applies to me.

    3. When I wrote, “Mind and matter could be a yin/yang pair, as is held by Taoism”, you replied

    Moreover, you are the one claiming that “I don’t believe that any metaphysical system that people believe is “true”: they are creative inventions which we have built to explain things that we can’t truly know about.”

    Thus why in blue blazes are you dissing both materialism and Theism and favoring some type of Eastern mysticism?

    Although I like Eastern thought on some of these issues (I have written about that before), I only offer it as an example of why your statement, “Either Mind is primary and matter is derivative, or else matter is primary and mind is derivative”, is not the only logical choice.

    As I have explained, we create metaphysical stories for useful human purposes, to help us make the most sense of the world, but they aren’t true ontologically. It is not inconsistent for me to believe what I do about our inability to know the Truth about metaphysics and to offer alternative ways of explaining something that you offer as a metaphysical fact, for the sake of showing that there are multiple ways of understanding what might be true.

    4. You write, “As I said, as far as the science is concerned, Theism is a slam dunk.” And I don’t believe that is true: that is what we are discussing.

  22. 22
    EricMH says:

    The bigger issue is if consciousness reduces to a configuration of matter, then the same configuration instantiated in different lumps of matter is the same consciousness. Yet, if my brain is destroyed and then reconstructed on the planet Xendra, I do not suddenly regain consciousness on Xendra. I just cease to exist. What we witnessed on Star Trek is Scotty constantly slaughtering his crew.

  23. 23
    ScuzzaMan says:

    Bob and William

    You do not need to have direct experience of another person’s consciousness (a metaphysical notion if there ever was one) to have direct experience of another person.

    When a normal person says or writes “person” they’re not speaking of a man-shaped machine, but a conscious self-willed autonomous, thinking being, usually a human being. It is built into the very definition. Why?

    Because our direct, personal, subjective experiences of other people leaves us in no actual doubt that they’re as conscious as we are.*

    Can we prove it? Can we pry open their consciousness in a lab and measure it, filter it, sample it, quantify it, identify its constituent elements?

    No.

    (That is, after all, the entirety of the materialist’s point: we cannot do these things to consciousness so in order to impress us with their muscular intellectual consistency they pretend they don’t believe in consciousness, relegating even their own to an illusion, a fantasy, a mirage. To the best of our knowledge only conscious beings can experience illusions? C’est la vie.)

    That doesn’t mean we don’t have direct experience of other people.

    That was my point.

    * when people come at this argument from the other direction, positing that ALL existence is an illusion created by the single mind experiencing it, I advise an immediate and brutal punch in the face. Then ask them why they imagined a universe in which imaginary people punch them in the face? If they try and sue you, recline in the knowledge they just contradicted themselves. Ponder it in your cell, if you like.

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    ScuzzaMan,

    Because our direct, personal, subjective experiences of other people leaves us in no actual doubt that they’re as conscious as we are.*

    Can we prove it? Can we pry open their consciousness in a lab and measure it, filter it, sample it, quantify it, identify its constituent elements?

    No

    .

    You seem to be making a point similar to the one KF made at 2. If so, we do not disagree.

  25. 25
    Allan Keith says:

    Jdk,

    I have no idea what your definition of troll is.

    For this commenter, it usually refers to anyone who disagrees with him. That is why a rarely respond to his comments.

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “I definitely don’t believe in reincarnation!”

    How would you ever possibly know one way or the other? According to your ever shifting self-contradicting metaphysics, (which just so happens to lean heavily towards Eastern mysticism whenever you get cornered on materialism), (and which shuns science at the drop of a hat I might add), there is no definiteness to ever to be had in any worldview.

    “I don’t believe that any metaphysical system that people believe is “true”: they are creative inventions which we have built to explain things that we can’t truly know about.”
    – jdk

    Obviously, the starting presumption and ultimate consequence of your metaphysics is best explained by the term “complete ignorance”

    This morning Origenes also showed that your belief system is either self-defeating or meaningless

    ,,, a tentative belief that all beliefs are held tentatively.
    4. (1) is either self-defeating or meaningless.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/fixing-the-unfixable-drake-equation/#comment-656002

    I’ve looked up aleta’s past interactions with Barry and others on UD, and yes the term troll applies to you aleta. Barry has corrected you a number of times for your trollish comments that try to drag a thread off topic, Although I do not know if you were eventually banned by Barry, I do know you were corrected several times for trollish behavior.

    FWIW, I personally consider your debating style to be disingenuous and therefore trollish in its character.

    And again, if you are going to defend Eastern Mysticism against both materialism and Theism, then do so. Don’t pussyfoot around the edges and only duck into Eastern Mysticism when called on your buffs trying to defend materialism.

    A good place for you to start defending Eastern mysticism, and/or Pantheism, is to offer scientific evidence supporting your view that consciousness is co-terminus with either the entire universe or with the particles of the universe.,,, But seeing as you shun science in favor of your own personal opinion of, ‘complete ignorance is our only option’, I don’t hold much hope of any challenges ever coming from you in this area of science.

    But alas, that is how it always goes with trolls is it not?!?

    Moreover, I’ve already laid out my scientific defense for Theism (post 15), from quantum mechanics, that shows consciousness must precede the entire universe, and that all other worldviews therefore, necessarily, fail to explain the scientific evidence.

  27. 27
    jdk says:

    But seeing as you shun science in favor of your own personal opinion of, ‘complete ignorance is our only option’,

    Hmmm. This is quite a misrepresentation. I think science is great. I am discussing the nature and limitations of metaphysics, which is about things that science can’t investigate. The mind of God is metaphysics.

  28. 28
    mike1962 says:

    ScuzzaMan: Because our direct, personal, subjective experiences of other people leaves us in no actual doubt that they’re as conscious as we are.

    When you dream, I assume you encounter people who appear and act every bit as human as you do. Are these dream characters conscious?

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    I think it is actually a quite good representation of your worldview,,,, Again:

    “I don’t believe that any metaphysical system that people believe is “true”: they are creative inventions which we have built to explain things that we can’t truly know about.”
    – jdk

    and again:

    Your belief is that metaphysical truth can’t be known.

    I am left to ask you how you can possibly know that your particular metaphysical truth, that metaphysical truth can’t be known, can be known?

    Your claim is a self-defeating claim. You exempt yourself from your very own criticism and claim to have knowledge which you yourself say can’t be possessed.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/fixing-the-unfixable-drake-equation/#comment-655979

    Like I said, ” the starting presumption and ultimate consequence of your metaphysics is best explained by the term “complete ignorance”

    Moreover, as also pointed out in that thread, the very success of modern science, since it was born out of the Judeo-Christian worldview alone, points to the truthfulness inherent in the Judeo-Christian worldview.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/fixing-the-unfixable-drake-equation/#comment-655979

    A false worldview would be unable to bring forth an endeavor, modern science, that has been so fruitful for modern man!

    And your self-defeating worldview of ‘we can’t know anything except to know that we can’t know anything” 🙂 is definitely a false worldview that would have prevented the rise of modern science if it were to have been widely believed in medieval Christian Europe.

  30. 30
    ET says:

    jdk:

    I think science is great.

    All indications say that you don’t know what science is.

  31. 31
    polistra says:

    The Turing Test isn’t really a test of awareness, it’s just a test of scamming ability. How well does the machine convince you of its false claim? Is it up to the standards of Bitcoin salesmen, or only as good as a Nigerian Prince?

    Faking is one of the tasks that every living thing performs all the time, so you could argue that the Turing Test is a partial measure of aliveness. I don’t think the argument works, but it’s closer to the mark than the conventional notion that Turing measures awareness.

  32. 32
    hnorman5 says:

    There’s not much of a strategy for creating a conscious machine but to improve its power to mimic consciousness. Then we just hope there’s an axiom of nature that says that once the illusion gets good enough it turns real. It’s highly dubious.

  33. 33
    Allan Keith says:

    hnorman5,

    There’s not much of a strategy for creating a conscious machine but to improve its power to mimic consciousness. Then we just hope there’s an axiom of nature that says that once the illusion gets good enough it turns real. It’s highly dubious.

    Why? If the “illusion” gets good enough to fool everyone, then how is this “illusion” any less conscious than we are? But, more importantly, what would we do if these AIs came up with their own Turing test and found us lacking?

  34. 34
    hnorman5 says:

    Allan Keith
    Perfecting a simulation is not the same as making something real. As for AIs giving us a Turing test, I suppose it’s conceptually possible. But it would be an unconscious process on their part.

  35. 35
    Allan Keith says:

    hnorman5,

    Perfecting a simulation is not the same as making something real. As for AIs giving us a Turing test, I suppose it’s conceptually possible. But it would be an unconscious process on their part.

    I tend to agree with you. But that is merely a subjective opinion. As Barry suggests, there is no way to know for sure because the only thing we have certainty about, even if it is an illusion, is our own consciousness. Through our observations of countless other people, we are fairly certain that they are conscious as well, but that is still short of certainty. And as I mentioned, if the machine behaves, acts and reacts in ways that we would expect other humans to do, why would we say that other humans are conscious but the machine is not? Just because we know the machine was designed and built?

    And if that is the reason, would the fact that humans were designed not suggest that we are not conscious either?

  36. 36
    mike1962 says:

    Allan Keith: the only thing we have certainty about, even if it is an illusion, is our own consciousness.

    If consciousness is an illusion, what is it an illusion of?

    Consciousness is what it is. To refer to it as (possibly) an “illusion” implies that there is some actuality to which the illusion is a false representation. For example, mirages in the desert appear to be puddles of water but they are not. They are illusions. But puddles of water actually exist in the world so it is appropriate to call mirages that appear to be puddles, “illusions of puddles.”

    Mirages are an illusion of puddles of water, but they are not.

    Please fill in the blank:

    Consciousness is an illusion of _____ but it is not.

  37. 37
    ScuzzaMan says:

    @mike1962

    “When you dream, I assume you encounter people who appear and act every bit as human as you do. Are these dream characters conscious?”

    I can remember two dreams in the last 50 years.

    But I’m not clear as to the relevance of your question; are you trying to imply there’s no distinction between waking and dreaming states, or are you trying to avoid admitting you’ve implied that?

  38. 38
    ScuzzaMan says:

    @Barry

    “If so, we do not disagree.”

    I sometimes forget that other people don’t share my odd sense of humour, so forgive me if my comment seemed dismissive or overly critical.

    I should probably have simply said that I think that’s where I see a discontinuity in your logic chain.

  39. 39
    mike1962 says:

    ScuzzaMan: I can remember two dreams in the last 50 years.

    Interesting.

    But I’m not clear as to the relevance of your question; are you trying to imply there’s no distinction between waking and dreaming states, or are you trying to avoid admitting you’ve implied that?

    I simply asked a question based on the criteria you specified. So is the answer yes or no? Or would you like to add more criteria?

  40. 40
    mike1962 says:

    ScuzzaMan: our direct, personal, subjective experiences of other people leaves us in no actual doubt that they’re as conscious as we are.

    Since you have extremely sparse experience with dreaming, I will withdraw the question from you. But anyone else is welcome to answer, if they agree with your original criteria.

  41. 41
    mike1962 says:

    To admin: I wish you’d convert over to Discus. It’s a lot better than this blog system. In so many ways.

  42. 42
    ScuzzaMan says:

    mike1962

    I don’t mean to say I’ve had only two, but that I’ve had only two I can remember. They fade almost immediately upon waking, from thought and memory.

    “I simply asked a question based on the criteria you specified.”

    Forgive me but I doubt this.

    The characters I encounter in my dreams are fundamentally distinct from the characters I encounter in my waking moments, in many ways. As stated, there is no real doubt (not in my mind nor yours, I wager) that one is not conscious and the other is.

    This posturing and playing for the sake of pretending to ironclad logical consistency is merely tiresome.

    There’s neither necessity nor sense in pretending that consciousness is illusory merely because its form most common to our experience is inextricably associated with matter.

    Parse that proposition as you may, there’s nothing of logic in it.

  43. 43
    hnorman5 says:

    Allan Keith @ 35

    Your point is taken that we can’t gain certainty that computers cannot become consciousness. However, I stand by my statement that it is highly dubious. At the very least we can say that there is no reason to think that the inert processing of information has anything to do with consciousness, though it may be skillfully manipulated to mimic it.

    If computers gain consciousness, or if they have already done so, then there’s something absolutely axiomatic at work that we don’t know about. It cannot be surmised from the appearance of consciousness.

  44. 44
    mike1962 says:

    Allan Keith,

    You never answered @36.

  45. 45
    Allan Keith says:

    Mike, sorry, my comment at 36 wasn’t saying that consciousness was an illusion. I apologize for my poor wording. I was just saying that consciousness, even in the unlikekely event that it is an illusion… and so on.

  46. 46
    mike1962 says:

    Allan Keith,

    Right. But when you say, “even in the unlikekely [sic] event that it is an illusion”, what do you mean by “illusion” here?

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