X-Message-Number: 8334
Date:  Thu, 19 Jun 97 08:56:15 
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Consciousness

Stephen Bogner, #8324, has, I think, come up with some illuminating 
ideas about consciousness, by which I do not mean I think his 
formalism is perfect--but it certainly has merits. This is the sort of
material I was looking for on the Web recently by searching under "artificial 
consciousness"--and didn't find. (Maybe it was there but I just 
missed it.) Some critics will, no doubt, complain that there is 
nothing in Bogner's definitions that says anything about feeling, 
which might be claimed as a necessary accompaniment of 
consciousness. However, I think the issue of feeling can also be 
approached in a similar way, i.e. reductionistically. We should be 
able to come up with conditions under which a system could be said to 
exhibit "feeling" much as Mr. Bogner has developed for consciousness.

Another possible criticism might relate to "behavior" as one of the 
stated requirements of consciousness. Could not a system be conscious 
but totally paralyzed? On the other hand, could its "behavior" be 
judged by internal transformations, or must we limit ourselves to 
exterior observables?

It does seem plausible to me that a thermostat should be regarded as
having a "quantum" of consciousness rather than absolutely none
at all. (And I would extend this to a quantum of feeling as well. In 
a very rudimentary way, the thermostat "wants" to make the 
temperature of the room fall within a desired range.) Multiply that
quantum by 10^N for N sufficiently large (15?23? bigger?) and it
does seem as if human-level consciousness and
beyond could result.

I also think his last point (as I understand it) is well taken, that
theoretically uploading human consciousness into a machine should
be possible but it may well be impractical because of the complexity
involved. On the other hand, machines of the future should be much
more powerful than those of today (and could involve such novelties
as quantum computing, which could make them much more powerful
still)--so we'll see.  

Mike Perry

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