Against Australian Zombies

#1
For sake of conversation, I wanted to put forth my opinion that is against Australian Zombies, or the idea of deriving the metaphysical possibility of beings just like us physically and functionally that have absolutely no conscious experience, which is then used to establish an ontological gap due to the purported ability to separate the two in different possible worlds.

I will just say, I don't like possible world arguments. I think they are terrible arguments. I saw Sean Carroll give a lecture on why God is not an explanatory hypothesis, and he talked about "possible worlds" of single particles moving through classical space. Really? That's not a possible world. That's lines and dots on a piece of paper. I can conceive of the world of Lord of the Rings, but that means absolutely nothing as to metaphysical possibility.

More specifically, I think it ignores fundamental physical theory. Granted, quantum theory is very controversial in its interpretation, even seen here on this board. I can put forth reasons for why I think the hard problem in neuroscience actually does offer compelling reasons on which to judge different interpretations, which, I think, combined with all empirical evidence from the field of QT itself, offers a compelling case for the von Neumann interpretation.

Within this interpretation, I cannot grant the possibility of beings just like us that have zero conscious experience. I also cannot grant the possibility of a world like ours with absolutely no conscious beings in it. For within the VNI, conscious experience is collapse of the wavefunction, and macro collapse events occur as a result of von Neumann chains. Without a conscious observer of some type, then there is no wavefunction collapse and no definite states, i.e. no world like ours.

And beings like us, since they are living, appear to necessarily be conscious. The negentropy of life seems like the most essential aspect of what is necessary to give rise to conscious experience, and if something is exactly like us then it also must necessarily be conscious. I cannot conceive of a non-conscious biological entity existing in a definite state like we do.

So based on this, I reject the possible worlds argument for Australian Zombies, and by rejecting this premise, I reject the conclusion of an ontological gap.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
I don't have a personal problem with Australian Zombies, though I also think they end up being so contentious that they waylay the discussion. Same with the Knowledge Argument.

Marcus Arvan, who studied at one point under Dennet, also said he found the zombie argument uncompelling. Instead he mentions Gregg Rosenberg's work as what made him become an immaterialist.

I know this is just a personal anecdote, but still, I think it is worth dwelling on for a moment. I started out my undergraduate career doing philosophy of mind at Tufts with Dan Dennett, one of the hardest-core physicalists out there. I was completely on board with him. Dualism had always seemed silly to me, and completely at odds with any scientifically respectable account of reality. And reading David Chalmers' bookThe Conscious Mind didn't sway me at all. The Zombie Argument -- the argument that Chalmers' entire book was based on -- immediately struck me then (just as it does now) as utterly question-begging. It seemed to me that [one] will share Chalmers' intuition that zombies are conceivable, and so metaphysically possible, if one antecedently finds dualism attractive. Since I didn't find dualism attractive in the slightest, the Zombie Argument seemed silly to me.

Anyway, I more or less remained a physicalist...until I read Rosenberg's book.
I still need to read Rosenberg's book, but based on Arvan's Peer-to-Peer hypothesis of mind being of a higher frame than the physical world I thought you might be interested as it seems inline with Stapp's idea. (To this layperson anyway.)
 
#3
Within this interpretation, I cannot grant the possibility of beings just like us that have zero conscious experience. I also cannot grant the possibility of a world like ours with absolutely no conscious beings in it. For within the VNI, conscious experience is collapse of the wavefunction, and macro collapse events occur as a result of von Neumann chains. Without a conscious observer of some type, then there is no wavefunction collapse and no definite states, i.e. no world like ours.
To me, there are some ideas, like the idea of zombies that behave just like us, but are not conscious, that are just so implausible that I resent using my finite brain power to try to refute them! I mean the idea that you could have zombies eating, drinking, making love, arguing on forums such as this, etc, all without being conscious is simply stupid.

This of course connects with the idea of IIT, in that the claim that the brain might have high IIT and so be conscious, and that a simulation of that brain would have low IIT and so could not be conscious, simply must be wrong, because the simulation would basically be a zombie.

I am very wary of modern physics - and therefore of using it to argue issues like this - because I think it has become seduced by mathematical sophistication. Wavefunctions might collapse by some quite prosaic means such as the GRW concept.

If new physics is based on new equations, presumably these can be simulated in principle on a computer, so by the above argument, the new physics can't actually explain consciousness.

David
 
Last edited:
#4
To me, there are some ideas, like the idea of zombies that behave just like us, but are not conscious, that are just so implausible that I resent using my finite brain power to try to refute them! I mean the ides that you could have zombies eating, drinking, making love, arguing on forums such as this, etc, all without being conscious is simply stupid.

This of course connects with the idea of IIT, in that the claim that the brain might have high IIT and so be conscious, and that a simulation of that brain would have low IIT and so could not be conscious, simply must be wrong, because the simulation would basically be a zombie.
No, the simulation wouldn't be a zombie. A zombie must be structurally the same as the original. Which of course why the idea doesn't really work. If it is the structure itself that results in consciousness then a perfect copy should be conscious as well. A digital simulation may be able to duplicate all the functions of the original.

By the way, isn't it just "Philosophical zombie". Chalmers is from Australia but are they actually referred to anywhere as Australian zombies? It didn't come up in google.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
But I think David is partially correct?

Either the laws of physics can't be algorithmic, OR IIT has to have some aspect of itself that isn't simulatable on a computer?

That further lends credence, it seems, to Neil's idea that IIT would have to indicate quantum processes are involved in the brain?
 
#6
But I think David is partially correct?

Either the laws of physics can't be algorithmic, OR IIT has to have some aspect of itself that isn't simulatable on a computer?

That further lends credence, it seems, to Neil's idea that IIT would have to indicate quantum processes are involved in the brain?
Right, I think its entirely possible that some elements would not be simulatable on a computer (though its always possible that someone might one day figure out how to do it).

It is the spatial structure of the integrated information that, under IIT, defines the qualitative part of an experience under IIT. As I understand it, current computer technology is not capable of simulating that kind of structure.

That is why the argument that computers can't be conscious is not much of an argument against any of these theories of consciousness.

I agree that IIT will have to mesh with QM before it can be said to be accepted. I've previously posted one paper attempting to do it, here is another one:
An integration of integrated information theory with fundamental physics
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#7
Right, I think its entirely possible that some elements would not be simulatable on a computer (though its always possible that someone might one day figure out how to do it).

It is the spatial structure of the integrated information that, under IIT, defines the qualitative part of an experience under IIT. As I understand it, current computer technology is not capable of simulating that kind of structure.

That is why the argument that computers can't be conscious is not much of an argument against any of these theories of consciousness.

I agree that IIT will have to mesh with QM before it can be said to be accepted. I've previously posted one paper attempting to do it, here is another one:
An integration of integrated information theory with fundamental physics
Amusing someone wants to exorcise the "cartesian" ghost using "information".
 
#10
That a simulation would be a zombie, though perhaps you weren't trying to argue this?
Well Neil claimed that a simulation would have low IIT, and so not be conscious. So if it were a faithful simulation, it would be a zombie according to IIT - but I don't really buy the IIT idea at all!

I also agree with Roger Penrose that anything mechanistic or algorithmic can't be conscious.

David
 
#11
Well Neil claimed that a simulation would have low IIT, and so not be conscious. So if it were a faithful simulation, it would be a zombie according to IIT - but I don't really buy the IIT idea at all!

I also agree with Roger Penrose that anything mechanistic or algorithmic can't be conscious.

David
It wouldn't have low integrated information, it would have no integrated information. Even one bit of integrated information would produce one bit of consciousness under IIT.

As I said above: a zombie has to have an identical structure, just without consciousness. A computer simulation is not an identical structure to a human being.
 
#12
It wouldn't have low integrated information, it would have no integrated information. Even one bit of integrated information would produce one bit of consciousness under IIT.

As I said above: a zombie has to have an identical structure, just without consciousness. A computer simulation is not an identical structure to a human being.
There has been some mention of the possibility of some small complexes having a low phi value within the computer. I think I quoted it in the IIT thread. That's definitely not to say that the simulation has any phi. I personally now doubt that those devices would even be conscious for the quantum reasons I mentioned in the IIT thread.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
True but I think Arouet is correct about Chalmer's original intention of what a zombie entails. It has to resemble us physically but have no conscious experience.

This isn't to say the argument is convincing or unconvincing but rather what the original idea of a philosophical zombie was.
 
#14
True but I think Arouet is correct about Chalmer's original intention of what a zombie entails. It has to resemble us physically but have no conscious experience.

This isn't to say the argument is convincing or unconvincing but rather what the original idea of a philosophical zombie was.
Yes, I agree with this. A simulation is just that...a simulation. Just as a world is simulated in a video game.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
Yes, I agree with this. A simulation is just that...a simulation. Just as a world is simulated in a video game.
It is an interesting question. I mean if IIT is correct AND the assertion that IIT implies human consciousness is noncomputable is correct it contradicts either the causal closure of physics or physics has some noncomputable aspects under its domain.

Am I correct in saying Stapp would argue for causal closure while Penrose would argue for noncomputable aspects? (I know Arvan would argue against causal closure for example since Libertarian Compatibilism hinges on that.)

edit: should be Stapp would argue against closure closure
 
Last edited by a moderator:
#16
It is an interesting question. I mean if IIT is correct AND the assertion that IIT implies human consciousness is noncomputable is correct it contradicts either the causal closure of physics or physics has some noncomputable aspects under its domain.

Am I correct in saying Stapp would argue for causal closure while Penrose would argue for noncomputable aspects? (I know Arvan would argue against causal closure for example since Libertarian Compatibism hinges on that.)
No, Stapp follows the von Neumann interpretation which does not adhere to causal closure.

The wavefunction collapse IS the noncomputable aspect.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
Speaking of causal closure of the physical, that is one major common assumption that is taken as a given and really affects philosophy of mind.
I'd also add the lack of consideration for final causation, the unexplained dualist interaction between natural "laws" and matter, & the idea that time is a dimensional axis as other major flaws. :)
 
#20
I'd also add the lack of consideration for final causation, the unexplained dualist interaction between natural "laws" and matter, & the idea that time is a dimensional axis as other major flaws. :)
Yeah, treating time as a dimension is really only a mathematical tool. To think that it really describes time is a mistake. Time appears to be emergent from collapse of the wave function.
 
Top