Sam Harris in Conversation About Consciousness with Philosopher David Chalmers

#2
Thanks Psiclops for uploading this. I enjoyed it a lot. I was interested when Chalmers at one point mentioned the simulation theory and how it makes the word God more palatable. I recently wrote this in my thread asking "Is the universe a simulation?"

"I have found that people of all persuasions will happily entertain 'far fetched' notions that may even touch on something like God - as long as the g-word isn't mentioned. As David Bailey has often said, he doesn't favour this word, I'm starting to grudgingly see his point. I am pro 'it' but would be quite happy hiding it in my head if it made possible such freedomof expression."

They delved quite deeply into AI and got me thinking about it differently. I don't think it's too wise for man to venture too far along the AI path until we've raised our own consciousness a bit more.At the same time, I'm not one for believing that AI will ever be able to display real conscious thought, if it does so by 'turning evil' it would be an interesting dilemma.
 
#3
At the same time, I'm not one for believing that AI will ever be able to display real conscious thought, if it does so by 'turning evil' it would be an interesting dilemma.
Currently, all we can envisage in terms of AI is a set of algorithms. Here, the video is titled, Tesla Autopilot tried to kill me! but I don't think anyone really thinks it was 'evil'. (It's also a bit of an exaggeration too). Here we can justifiably consider that it was simply following instructions.

We have a strange contradiction, on the one hand there are those who like to deny that humans have free will, yet at the same time would like to ascribe consciousness to a machine, thereby assigning free will to it.
 
#4
I don't think I have the intellectual capacity of some here to figure out a lot of this but what fascinated me most was the concessions to 'our' ways of thinking these two atheists were making.

I really hope Sam Harris will publish a transcript of this dialogue.

Meanwhile I've made a few notes which are not verbatim but generally, I hope, largely accurate.

Chalmers suggested one way to solve the 'hard problem' of consciousness was to see it as fundamental.

He said: "It may well be, my take on this is, we know that some laws in science are taken as fundamental, the laws of the universe, the law of gravity, unified field theory, the laws of quantum mechanics - some things are just basic principals we don't try to explain any further.
It may well be when it comes to consciousness we may have to take something like that for granted as well.
We don't try to explain space....likewise the same could be true of consciousness....
We remove the hard problem because this will be taken as basic."

To which Sam Harris responded: " Yes I am quite sympathetic with that line. As you say there are brute facts that we accept throughout science and there are no insults to thinking this about the rest of reality"

There was discussion of panpsychism and a suggestion that even a thermostat might be conscious.

Chalmers suggested that the idea that 'everything has a mind' is a somewhat 'kookie' view - but he said that for years quite a few people had been exploring the idea that consciousness is in the system from the start.

Sam Harris: "Does it get you out of the hard problem or create some other hard problems?
David Chalmers: " It avoids the original hard problem of why there is consciousness at all. It's just fundamentally present in the way we take space or mass"

Later around the 44 minute mark in this recording Harris obsrves Chalmers has taken the "non-reductive view" of consciousness.

Chalmers replies: "Consciousness can't be explained in terms of standard physical processes. You have to add to nature. Maybe it's nothing like a soul but we need new substance."

I've seen plenty of debates and videos in which David Chalmers has kept company with folks who perhaps Sam Harris would feel uncomfortable with.

Now maybe Sam can be brave enough to face our own Alex for what would be a fascinating interview?

.
 
#9
I don't think I have the intellectual capacity of some here to figure out a lot of this but what fascinated me most was the concessions to 'our' ways of thinking these two atheists were making.

I really hope Sam Harris will publish a transcript of this dialogue.

Meanwhile I've made a few notes which are not verbatim but generally, I hope, largely accurate.

Chalmers suggested one way to solve the 'hard problem' of consciousness was to see it as fundamental.

He said: "It may well be, my take on this is, we know that some laws in science are taken as fundamental, the laws of the universe, the law of gravity, unified field theory, the laws of quantum mechanics - some things are just basic principals we don't try to explain any further.
It may well be when it comes to consciousness we may have to take something like that for granted as well.
We don't try to explain space....likewise the same could be true of consciousness....
We remove the hard problem because this will be taken as basic."

To which Sam Harris responded: " Yes I am quite sympathetic with that line. As you say there are brute facts that we accept throughout science and there are no insults to thinking this about the rest of reality"

There was discussion of panpsychism and a suggestion that even a thermostat might be conscious.

Chalmers suggested that the idea that 'everything has a mind' is a somewhat 'kookie' view - but he said that for years quite a few people had been exploring the idea that consciousness is in the system from the start.

Sam Harris: "Does it get you out of the hard problem or create some other hard problems?
David Chalmers: " It avoids the original hard problem of why there is consciousness at all. It's just fundamentally present in the way we take space or mass"

Later around the 44 minute mark in this recording Harris obsrves Chalmers has taken the "non-reductive view" of consciousness.

Chalmers replies: "Consciousness can't be explained in terms of standard physical processes. You have to add to nature. Maybe it's nothing like a soul but we need new substance."

I've seen plenty of debates and videos in which David Chalmers has kept company with folks who perhaps Sam Harris would feel uncomfortable with.

Now maybe Sam can be brave enough to face our own Alex for what would be a fascinating interview?

.
This makes me a little worried, declare consciousness fundamental and then declare the whole thing closed. Of course the version of consciousness they will decide is fundamental will be the materialist view of panspychism as Bernardo Kastrup has said when really we need more testing to understand it.
 
#10
This makes me a little worried, declare consciousness fundamental and then declare the whole thing closed. Of course the version of consciousness they will decide is fundamental will be the materialist view of panspychism as Bernardo Kastrup has said when really we need more testing to understand it.
I don't see the phenomenon of materialism flirting with panpsychism going anywhere! I mean, they still want to explain everything we do, in terms of arrays of neurons firing. Their explanatory model is closed, so there is no place for panpsychism to actually do anything!

To me, it is rather like the argument about whether consciousness is an illusion, or an emergent property, or an epiphenomenon - these aren't scientific debates - just desperate efforts to shuffle the problems away with verbiage! Contrast this with David Chalmers' clear and precise concept of the 'hard problem'.

David
 
#11
I quite like David Chalmers but I can't see how he will ever come to a conclusion about consciousness, other than the one he already has, namely that it's a hard (unfathomable) problem. (Some of ) The members of this forum IMHO are arguably further along than him because they're open to (not proven yet but highly suggestive) the evidence that consciousness can continue to function when the brain has stopped working.

I'm disappointed as to why he never mentions this NDE phenomenon (as if it's not even on the radar) . I would like Alex to ask him specifically (maybe he has and if he has apologies)....(Question) You accept that we are all indeed thinking, conscious entities. Are you aware of the reports of consciousness without a functioning brain during cardiac arrest ?

He's a genial bloke, I really wonder what he'd say.....maybe something like, "Well that sounds far out, man, do you have any evidence that has ever occurred ?"

"Well yes....look here (Lancet paper) for instance !"
 
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#12
I'm disappointed as to why he never mentions this NDE phenomenon (as if it's not even on the radar) . I would like Alex to ask him specifically (maybe he has and if he has apologies)....(Question) You accept that we are all indeed thinking, conscious entities. Are you aware of the reports of consciousness without a functioning brain during cardiac arrest ?
Hey - is Alex planning to interview him?

I suspect that Chalmers is like so many other academics - they can't really come out until just before, or after retirement! In a way you can't blame hem, and if they succeed in posing tough problems for others to answer, maybe it is just as well they stay respectable!

I was sorry that he seems to be getting so interested in ideas like AI and uploading the mind into a computer. At least for the moment, these are Gedanken experiments, and like with other Gedanken experiments, it is necessary to give a lot of thought as to whether they are in principle possible. I think this particular Gedanken experiment would only be possible in a totally materialist universe. I mean, even in a panpsychist universe, consciousness in the brain would be somehow generated by the panpsychism aspect of matter. Even though that would also be true of the matter that constitutes the computer, it is mind bogglingly unlikely to me that it would interact with the brain simulation in the same way as it would have been interacting with the brain!

To be clear, my view is that these experiments are in principle impossible - so reasoning about them tells us nothing.

David
 
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#13
Hey - is Alex planning to interview him?
I should have phrased the sentence a bit differently....IF... Alex interviewed him.

David Bailey said > " I suspect that Chalmers is like so many other academics - they can't really come out until just before, or after retirement"

Probably right !

I was sorry that he seems to be getting so interested in ideas like AI and uploading the mind into a computer.
I must have missed that. Artificial intelligence is not consciousness and never could be IMHO. You can gather together as much information as you like and devise the most complex ability to process it but it's not consciousness. We don't know what it takes to make something alive (conscious). As for uploading "minds" into a computer, apart from that being as likely as the ability to "plait fog," if materialists are serious about such a silly idea, that would automatically make them dualists and that would never do !


To be clear, my view is that these experiments are in principle impossible - so reasoning about them tells us nothing.
I agree. But of course, I'm no Einstein.
 
#14
Do they say anything significantly new?

David
No, but it's a very lucid and free-flowing overview of the field from the open-minded materialist point of view - dualism and idealism don't get very much, if any, talking time, and as was mentioned above by tim, no evidence for these positions is raised, however the hard problem, eliminativism, epiphenominalism, panpsychism, and the zombie argument all get a good going-over. This a very handy resource to have as an introduction for those new to the field, and I'd recommend that despite that there's nothing new, you check it out, David. Thanks, Psiclops, for posting.
 
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