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pnrjulius comments on That Alien Message - Less Wrong

111 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 May 2008 05:55AM

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Comment author: pnrjulius 09 April 2012 05:12:44AM 0 points [-]

Well, as it stands, words like "person" and "consciousness" do pick out certain things (Bill Gates is a conscious person) and leave out other things (this ballpoint pen is not a conscious person). So there must be SOME meaning there, even if it's a confused or morally irrelevant meaning.

Hence, they're not as mistaken as the idea of the immortal soul, since that is as far as I can tell incoherent. (It's what moves my body... but it is non-physical? What does that MEAN?)

They could be as mistaken as the aether or phlogiston, but that's actually not so bad. These are scientific concepts that turned out to be wrong and were replaced by better concepts (relativity and oxidation reactions respectively) that explained the same phenomena and also explained many other phenomena. So if we replace "consciousness" in this way, we'll replace it with something that works just as well in the obvious cases and works even better in the tricky ones. (I am hopeful that we will do exactly this.)