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Bugmaster comments on Can't Unbirth a Child - Less Wrong

24 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 December 2008 05:00PM

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Comment author: Bugmaster 18 June 2012 09:16:40PM *  2 points [-]

I think the confusion here stems from the fact that the word "color" has two different meanings.

When physicists talk about "color", what they mean is, "a specific wavelength of light". Let's call this "color-a".

When biologists or sociologists (or graphic artists) talk about "color", what they mean is, "a series of biochemical reactions in the brain which is usually the result of certain wavelengths of light hitting the retina". Let's call this "color-b".

Both "color-a" and "color-b" are physical phenomena, but they are distinct. As it happens, "color-b" is often caused by "color-a", but that isn't always the case. And we can often map "color-b" back onto a single "color-a", but that isn't always the case either; for example, the "color-b" we know as "brown" depends on local contrast, and thus does not have a single "color-a" cause.

This confusion in terms makes philosophical discussions confusing, but that's just an artifact of the English language. The concepts themselves are relatively simple, IMO.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 19 June 2012 06:13:56AM 1 point [-]

Using the distinction I introduce here, both your color-a and your color-b are on the "physics side", but there absolutely has to be color on the "feeling side" as well; that's the original meaning of color and the one that we know about directly.

Now, in real life I have a deadline to meet, and further communications will be delayed for a few days, if I'm wise...

Comment author: Bugmaster 19 June 2012 07:42:33AM *  0 points [-]

I think you may be somewhat confused about Eliezer's terminology. You say:

You may see the unacknowledged dualism to which I refer, in the phrase "how an algorithm feels from inside". This implies that the facts about a sentient computer or sentient brain consist of (1) all the physical facts (locations of particles, or whatever the ultimate physical properties are) (2) "how it feels" to be the entity.

But the original article does not propose any kind of a dualism. Instead (IMO), it attempts to expose certain mental biases inherent to all humans, which are caused by the specific ways in which our neural hardware is configured: "Because we don't instinctively see our intuitions as "intuitions", we just see them as the world".

You say that...

People generally notice at some point that the "color feelings" don't exist on the physical side.

But people "generally notice" a lot of things, including the existence of gods and demons, and the shape of the Earth, which is flat. Just because people notice something, doesn't mean it's there (but it doesn't mean it's not there, either). You go on to say that materialists are...

...finding consciousness an unfathomable mystery which always eludes analysis...

But this just isn't true. We know a lot (though not everything) about how our consciousness operates; in fact, we can even observe some of it happening in real time under fMRI scans. Sure, some philosophers might wax poetic about the grand mystery of consciousness, but they are the same kinds of people who waxed poetic about the grand mystery of the heavens before Newtonian Mechanics was discovered.

Thus, I'm not convinced that...

...there absolutely has to be color on the "feeling side" as well...

...assuming of course that by "feeling side" you mean something distinct from brain-states. I could be wrong, of course; but since you are making the positive proposition about the existence of qualia, the burden of proof is on you.