Home > Meeting Topics and Material, News Stories > Weekly QUEST Discussion Topics and News, Dec 14th

Weekly QUEST Discussion Topics and News, Dec 14th

Weekly QUEST Discussion Topics and News Dec 14th

Weekly QUEST Discussion Topics and News
December 14, 2012

Making the hard problem easy – a Theory of Consciousness
This week we want to hit the article by David Chalmers – ‘The puzzle of conscious experience’ and specifically map the discussion to our efforts to define the engineering characteristics of conscious experience – thus making the hard problem (Why does it exist? What does it do? How could it possibly arise from neural processes in the brain?) easy. I put in bold the questions I think we have been addressing versus the neural correlate questions. Chalmers suggests – consciousness might be explained by a new kind of theory. The full details of such a theory are still out of reach, but careful reasoning and some educated inferences can reveal something of its general nature. For example, it will probably involve new fundamental laws (*** these are the QUEST tenets we’ve listed ***),and the concept of information may play a central role (** we certainly early on in our efforts defined the unambiguous parsing of stimuli, data and information concluding a subjective definition was required **). These faint glimmerings suggest that a theory of consciousness may have startling consequences for our view of the universe and of ourselves (** and we would add have a dramatic impact on our engineering solutions for machine-human collaboration ***).
These are questions that we would like a theory of consciousness to answer.
• Why do we have any experience at all? There is an engineering advantage to an approach that uses the representational characteristics of our illusory Cartesean theater = qualia.
• Could not an unconscious automaton have performed the same tasks just as well? My position is the answer to this question is NO – to achieve the robustness that nature demonstrates requires the ‘conscious’ representation.
• Why do we experience anything at all? Engineering advantage.
• What leads to a particular conscious experience (such as the blueness of blue)? Subjectively unique, innate initial condition modulated by experience.
• Why are some aspects of subjective experience impossible to convey to other people (in other words, why are they private)? Situated nature allows comparison with other conscious experience but they don’t exist in isolation.
An approach to the hard questions should be based around ‘Meaning’ – implies a connection to ‘information’ – not Shannon info but information as meaning – Meaning derives from the linkages – the interesting question becomes what engineering characteristics must be present to capture the essence of meaning achieved by ‘consciousness’ in nature – although Chalmers takes the position – Conscious experience as a fundamental feature = irreducible – we are suggesting there are fundamental laws of the representation from which we can derive characteristics and predict performance – we seek fundamental laws : start by looking for high level bridging laws, connecting interacting processes to account for experience at an everyday level –

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