Who lacks the qualia of consciousness?

Over on Face­book (I don’t know if it’s pos­si­ble to link to a Face­book post, but h/​t Alexan­der Kruel) and Twit­ter, the sub­ject of miss­ing qualia has come up. Some peo­ple are color-blind. This defi­ciency can be ob­jec­tively demon­strated by tasks such as the Ishihara pat­terns. Some peo­ple can­not smell, and some­times do not dis­cover this un­til well into adult­hood. Some peo­ple can­not form men­tal imagery, which was undis­cov­ered un­til Gal­ton wrote of it, but is now well-known enough to have a Wikipe­dia ar­ti­cle. Un­til they dis­cover that oth­ers re­ally do see with the mind’s eye, aphan­ta­sics take the ex­pres­sion to be some sort of metaphor. But it is not. Some peo­ple, I think most, do see things in their mind’s eye.

More re­cently of note is that some peo­ple lack the qualia of long-term mem­ory (see sec­tion 1.4): they can know that things in­volv­ing them hap­pened, but not re-ex­pe­rience them as a par­ti­ci­pant.

I want to put the fol­low­ing ques­tion: Does any­one here lack the qualia of con­scious­ness?

If you do lack this then you won’t know what I’m talk­ing about. So I shall try to de­scribe the ex­pe­rience. I have a vivid sen­sa­tion of my own pres­ence, my own self. This is the thing I am point­ing at when I say that I am con­scious. Whether I sit in med­i­ta­tion or in the midst of life, there I am. In­deed, more vividly in med­i­ta­tion, be­cause then, that is where I di­rect my at­ten­tion. But only in dream­less sleep is it ab­sent.

Some peo­ple claim by med­i­ta­tion to have seen through what they claim is the illu­sion of con­scious­ness. I am un­cer­tain whether they have self-mod­ified to ab­late the fac­ulty of hav­ing this ex­pe­rience, or merely philosophised them­selves into be­liev­ing there can’t be any such thing, and in­sist­ing that they are not ex­pe­rienc­ing what they are ex­pe­rienc­ing.

But there may be some peo­ple out there who have never had any ex­pe­rience of them­selves such as I have de­scribed. In effect, al­most p-zom­bies. The origi­nal p-zom­bies are by defi­ni­tion in­dis­t­in­guish­able in be­havi­our from ev­ery­one else, in­clud­ing talk about con­scious­ness. But peo­ple with­out this ex­pe­rience of self, quasi-p-zom­bies, or q-zom­bies for short, may imi­tate the dis­course as aphan­ta­sics or anos­mics may, but with­out real un­der­stand­ing. I in­vite any­one who recog­nises them­selves to be a q-zom­bie to put their hand up. Note that this is a ques­tion about whether you ac­tu­ally have this ex­pe­rience, not what you think about its pos­si­bil­ity or na­ture.