Wednesday, April 04, 2012

conscious robots and what they (don't) prove

Dr. V sounds a bit desperate in this latest attempt at deconstructing the functionalist/emergentist account of mind:

Suppose that there is a group of philosophizing robots. These machines are so sophisticated that they ask Big Questions. One of the problems under discussion might well be the mind-body problem in robots. The fact that they know that they had been constructed by human robotics engineers in Palo Alto, California would do nothing to alleviate their puzzlement. In fact, one of the philosophizing robots could propose the theory that the emergence of consciousness in their silicon brains is not to be interpreted as an emergence from matter or as a dependence of consciousness on matter, but as a Cartesian mind's becoming embodied in them: at a point of sufficient complexity, a Cartesian mind embodies itself in the robot.

In other words, what could stop a philosophizing robot from rejecting emergentism and being a substance dualist? He knows his origin, or at least the origin of his body; but how does knowing that he is a robot, and thus a human artifact[,] prevent his considering himself to be an artifact housing a Cartesian mind? He might trot out all the standard dualist arguments.

For me, this question has already been asked and answered by Arnold and Britney. Dr. V, in his post, insists upon his own willful ignorance. As philosopher Arnold says in my post:

Look; you’re saying that the mind is immaterial and that qualia are radically subjective. This means that your side can never really understand what mind is, because you’re convinced there’s no way to explore it scientifically. Further, you insist there’s no way to test for the presence of consciousness, which is tantamount to saying you don’t know what consciousness is. After all, when you want to test for something—to see whether it’s there or not—you have to know something about it. Take AIDS testing. If I don’t have any idea what AIDS is, it’s kind of hard to design a test for it, don’t you think? By the same token, if you don’t have a clear idea what consciousness is, it’s kind of hard to test for that as well. I infer your ignorance from your inability to envision a test for consciousness.


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