X-Message-Number: 17959
Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2001 11:07:06 EST
Subject: Desires, values etc.

Thomas Donaldson (#17949) uses the terms "consciousness" and "desires" in 
relation to putative machine intelligence. But these terms mean very 
different things to different people, and very few seem to appreciate the 
basic distinction between people and automatons. (Shipman has it right, or 
very nearly.)

In my usage, "feeling" is the basis of life as we know it (personhood)--this 
means subjective experience, or qualia. Its physical basis is still unknown. 
It may or may not be possible in an inorganic artifact.

"Consciousness" or awareness is based on feeling augmented by cognition. 
Cognition is basically a kind of computation. (And "self-awareness" is merely 
an aspect of awareness with a certain kind of cognition.)

"Desire" is a tricky term, and I don't use it. Goal-oriented algorithms are 
easy to write, automatons with goals are easy to build, and a goal is in some 
sense a desire.  Goals combined with cognition might be said to constitute 

"Values" rather than goals represent the important questions for us. Which 
values or drives are the most basic and most important? Which are fundamental 
and which are derivative? Which are compatible and which are not? Which can 
be changed and which "ought" to be changed? These are the most important of 
all scientific questions. I have some partial, tentative answers in my book 
in progress, YOUNIVERSE.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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