Re: The GLUT and functionalism

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Apr 03 2008 - 02:26:26 MDT

Stathis writes

> Lee wrote:
>> [In relation to the possibility that the visual centres
>> of your brain could be zombified due to being
>> looked up rather than computed in the usual
>> manner, Stathis writes]
>> > given that you have always enjoyed (or
>> > thought you enjoyed!) your visual experiences,
>> > you might seriously consider an expensive and
>> > slightly risky operation to restore your sight.
>> I think that that is exactly true, though clearly some part
>> of me is *enjoying* something closely related. But yes,
>> it cannot be said that I am enjoying the visual experience
>> since according to me it is being looked up.

I appreciated very much your discussion of blindsight, BTW.

>> > I claim that the argument whereby if part of your
>> > brain is replaced by the simulation you could not
>> > possibly notice anything had changed *proves*
>> > that the simulation must be conscious in exactly the
>> > same way as biological tissue.

That argument may also be a bit circular: "you could
not possibly notice" may beg the question of what
"you" is. Naturally I would contend that "you" are
diminished by whatever parts of your experience
are looked up.

That is not to say you're wrong, but it does seem
to me to be just another way of saying that
looked-up experience is as valid as "authentically
computed" experience.

>> > If [Lee is right] then there is no *proof* that
>> > an upload will be conscious in the same way as
>> > the original. You might think that it sounds
>> > reasonable, but ultimately you have
>> > to take it on faith.
>> It would be a very strong sort of faith, though, again for
>> the same reason.
> My problem is that without the fading qualia / partial zombification
> argument as I have outlined I have no really persuasive reason to
> believe that I would remain conscious in the same way as I am now if
> my brain is replaced with a simulation running on a different
> substrate. I welcome any other arguments you have might have to offer.

I probably have nothing new to add, but if you were
planning an action based upon a weighted sum of you-
being-right and me-being-right, then I would say, in
the case that I'm right, that there are, I believe, a number
of smooth transition scenarios that start with your present
brain, and replace it bit by bit with electro-mechanical
and computerized hardware that would have (of course)
exactly the same functional behavior, and that these make
altogether a good argument for such a simulation/emulation
being satisfactory.

But yes, since I've put out an argument against complete
functionalism, you'll probably find "the same functional
behavior" as less than convincing coming from me. But if
indeed I am right, then all that is really needed is the
ordinary causal connection between "adjacent states",
which is preserved in uploaded and similar simulation
(emulated) scenarios.

>> > You also have to admit that you might be at least partially
>> > a zombie right now, since feeling that you're all conscious
>> > does not count as evidence that this is in fact the case.
>> >
>> Well, I don't think that that's something that I (or anything
>> that was pretending to be me) could or would ever concede.
>> For in the case at hand, where I am an evolutionarily
>> derived organism, we agree along with right thinking people everywhere :-)
>> that I'm conscious. On the
>> other hand, if I were just a GLUT with a tiny, simple
>> loader program, then since it would simulate (but not
>> emulate) me, then it too would erroneously announce
>> that it was conscious.
> Yes, but I know right now that I'm not a zombie, regardless of whether
> anyone else believes me. What you're suggesting is that this special
> personal knowledge might be unreliable: I may yet be a zombie, or a
> partial zombie, despite feeling what I feel.

No, I don't agree. Instead, I agree with you, namely, that
from your point of view---assuming that you are not being
looked up, i.e., not a zombie (and so *there is* a "your
point of view)---you do have absolute knowledge (or as
near as we ever come to such a thing) that you are

So by definition, if you are indeed feeling anything at all,
then you are conscious.

Now it would be mighty weird to take a looked-up person,
and demonstrate to it that it was being looked up! Needless
to say, this simulation (not, in my eyes, an emulation) would
react as though extremely surprised and extremely skeptical,
exactly, of course, as you would if shown a false proof or
given a false demonstration that you were being looked up
(when in fact you were not so being).

> But surely *at bottom* consciousness must be this feeling
> that I have.

One of its necessary characteristics, I guess we agree, is
that it does provide such a feeling. Of course, from the
outside such a characterization is completely useless. The
only thing that can be reliably talked about are the objective
facts concerning how you're being emulated (to you), or
emulated or simulated (to the rest of us).


> People with blindsight behave as if they see things but lack visual
> experiences. The opposite phenomenon is Anton's syndrome: some
> people with lesions in their visual cortex believe they can see normally
> while in fact they are blind. Combine the two conditions (although I
> have never heard of an actual case) and you could have someone who is
> blind, but behaves as if he can see normally and believes he can see
> normally. This may seem a good candidate for zombie vision, but it
> isn't so simple. Patients with Anton's syndrome are delusional, and
> insist they can see even though they are continually walking into
> things. This is an extra neuropsychiatric disability, not a direct
> consequence of losing perception. If the rest of your brain is
> functioning normally, losing visual pathways is not something that can
> go unnoticed.

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