X-Message-Number: 12657
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 20:47:46 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Feeling, apparent and real 

Bob Ettinger, #12647, says
> ... look at the many experiments involving human 
>subjects who do things, including answering questions and solving puzzles, 
>without knowing it. For that matter all of us, on many occasions, do many 
>things "automatically" without thinking about it or even knowing it. On these 
>occasions, is it not obvious that goal-seeking is divorced from feeling? 
Not so obvious, in my view, because the brain is a most complicated
mechanism. A "siamese twin" brain in your own head could carry on a life of
its own, with feeling, without your direct awareness. It would not seem as
if there was any feeling involved. And the brain (your real brain) may well
contain "agents" whose functioning amounts to their having feeling (and
consciousness), but which do not communicate that way to "you"--your
consciousness. Actually, something very much like the "siamese twin" effect
appears to occur with cerebral commisurotomy, in which the brain is split
down to the brain stem, as a way to treat severe epilepsy. You get two,
basically independent individuals within the one brain, which is still
somewhat physically connected.

>Maybe it will help a bit to look again at the robot that seeks an electric 
>outlet to recharge itself. Mike Perry says maybe it is indeed "hungry" in a 
>primitive sort of way and hence does indeed have a smidgeon of feeling. I say 
>there is no reason whatsoever to impute feeling to the thing, but set that 
>aside for now. 
>Just think: What if it is programmed to seek that same outlet, but not to 
>plug itself in and "feed" itself--maybe just to win a race.

Brer Rabbit seemingly wanted not to be thrown in the brier patch--that was
his feeling on the matter--only it wasn't of course. But he did have
feeling. In general I am strongly opposed to a point of view in which the
mental states of a functioning system are to be judged solely by external
effects--one needs to know the internal processes as well. However, with
full knowledge of a system it should be possible to assess whether you would
say it has consciousness and feeling, and what their nature would be.
Moreover, if its external behavior, well tested, suggests it has feeling, I
am inclined to think it does, even if it could be deceiving us as to the
particular feeling involved. Put another way, I don't think there could be a
system that convincingly imitates having feeling without some real feeling
being present. At root I think this is probably an unprovable assertion, but
so is the claim that other persons besides ourselves have feeling. There we
are able to impute feeling based on a sufficient similarity to ourselves. In
the case of a mechanism not based on protoplasmic, carbon-based life, we
have less in the way of similarity, and are forced to consider more
carefully what other features of "systems with feeling" might come into
play. This has been thrashed out on this forum--to the dismay and disgust of
some who think it is taking us too far afield from our main topic of
cryonics (I and some others don't agree). I'll leave it for now, except to
say that I have had some new and interesting thoughts.

Mike Perry

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