Junius replied 12 years ago (Jul 21st 2011, 3:22:57 am)
The key word here seems to be 'logically' or the assumption that consciousness is only or mainly related to reasoning.
When we or Persephone choose something we experience in turn separate subjective scenarios. The experience of one wine as against another, or what's probably more important the decision between a short-term benefit and a larger longer-term benefit, say between spending the afternoon drinking, or doing some exercise, which may at a later date give us a healthier body. This is our impression of it, and as of the last few years this is supported by experimentation.
It is true as you say that the decision is arbitrary. You can write down pros and cons as much as you like, but the clincher is the subjective scenarios. What we should be asking is where that comes from. As you know, you wouldn't be the first to notice that the quantum world can also be a bit arbitrary.
I wouldn't for a moment deny that we are conscious of reasoning, but the evidence suggests that it's coloured by emotional processing which lies predominantly up stream of reasoning. Thus reward/punisher valuations are thought to register first in the orbitofrontal and after that in the dorsolateral prefrontal. A mass of medical evidence going all the way back to Phineas Gage shows that damage to the orbitofrontal makes it extremely difficult for patients to make any decision or have acceptable behaviour, although in conversation they are fully cognisant of what they need to do.
There is another joker in the pack, upstream of the dorsolateral, and that's the amygdala, that relic of our reptile past. The best example here is phobia where the signal by-passes the cortex, to get quickly to the amygdal, and then that's a place you really don't want to go. If you're phobic of snakes say, no amount of reasoning about it not being a non-poisonous variety is going to have any effect.
To come back to robots and the robot sensing the wall, I take it that you mean that it's like something for the robot to sense the wall. I can't disprove that, but is there any evidence for it. When an infra red bea, or whatever bounces of a wall, 1s and 0s and sikicon switches make its limbs or wheels move away from it. That looks to be fully described by classical (I mean macroscopic/non-quantum physics), so why do we need to inject consciousness. Kelvin pointed out more than a century that this type of physics was complete. The extensions to physics came in other kinds.
Really, I think the problem is more serious than this, because I'm not sure that this qualifies as a scientific theory. Can you suggest any experiement that would falsify the idea of this robot being conscious? I don't think things like the squirming of the alimentary canal are enough because here too classical description which contain no mention of consciousness gives a full explanation. On the other hand what I've said about the orbitofrontal etc could be falsified in a laboratory at any moment, and certainly its very likley to be amended or added to in coming years.
What I said about consciousness and rocks was somewhat self indulgent. The orbitofrontal speaking if you like. I'd quite like conscious experience to extend down into the inanimate world, but I don't see hard evidence, and if there is evidence is likely to involve the quanta and spacetime, and that's a hard place, and always subject to what might come out of the Hadron Collider, I think it's easier to get there from the brain than the rocks.
As a last word, perhaps we should think where we're likeley to go if the rocks are conscious. A century ago Freud warned Jung to hold fast to Freudian theory because it was a sluice gate against the dark tide of the occult. How does the theory constrain this world? What comprises a conscious entity in this world? Is it a continuum or is a large rock a single conscious entity, and if that a (sacred) mountain, or the river Nile or Father Tiber, and beyond that the planets, not to speak of the primal manifesting as ghosts and spirits. I don't rule these things but if we go on like this I can see us, or a lot of people worshipping Artemis, the Earth upholder, who sits in the market place on the throne called fame.