Monday, August 17, 2009

An excellent article on software consciousness, and an idiotic reply

Martine Rothblatt has written an article on Can Consciousness be Created in Software? The article is published on her blog and the IEET blog.

Martine understands that consciousness is produced by physical processes in physical brains, by material atoms and molecules doing their things in accordance with the laws of physics, without any vitalism or supernatural nonsense, and anticipates that, once things are well understood, it will be possible to engineer consciousness in software: "If human consciousness is to arise in software we must do three things: first explain how the easy problem is solved in neurons; second, explain how the hard problem is solved in neurons; and third, explain how the solution in neurons is replicable in information technology.". By "hard problem" she refers to "qualia": "how do the web of molecules we call neurons give rise to subjective feelings or qualia (the “redness of red”)?".

I agree with Martine's "The “hard problem” of consciousness is not so hard.". We don't understand yet how the web of molecules we call neurons give rise to subjectively feeling the redness of red, but our neurons are doing it anyway regardless of our lack of understanding. And, once we understand the process well, we will be able to replicate it in information technology.

Of course bioluddites are already screaming with their usual hysterical and idiotic defense of vitalist mysticism against reason and science. Carrico does not want to hear that biologically incarnated consciousness can be coded. I am particularly puzzled by his statement "I certainly don't find myself inclined particularly to think of "memory chips, processors and peripherals" when I contemplate what we know about the "exquisite micro-mechanical" and electro-chemical processes that take place in biological brains and which seem to us to correlate indicatively to conscious thought processes.". But he is saying it himself: micro-mechanical and electro-chemical processes, of course exquisite, but also physical, understandable and reverse-engineerable. No vitalist mysticism in our bodies, brains and minds. Carrico also takes issue with Martine's quoting Robert Kennedy: "Some men see things as they are and wonder why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?” and says "There are a few things to say about these cynical appropriations of heroes of mine and other progressives.". Why "cynical"? Do Kenendy and Lennon belong to him? Did they write only for him? Is he the only person qualified to quote them? Give me a break.