An aspiring rationalist who has been involved in the Columbus Rationality community since January 2016.
Even after reading your post, I don’t think I’m any closer to comprehending the illusionist view of reality. One of my good and most respected friends is an illusionist. I’d really like to understand his model of consciousness.
Illusionists often seem to be arguing against strawmen to me. (Notwithstanding the fact that some philosophers actually do argue for such “strawman” positions). Dennet’s argument against “mental paint” seems to be an example of this. Of course, I don’t think there is something in my mental space with the property of redness. Of course “according to the story your brain is telling, there is a stripe with a certain type of property.” I accept that the most likely explanation is that everything about consciousness is the result of computational processes (in the broadest sense that the brain is some kind of neural net doing computation, not in the sense that it is anything actually like the Von Neumann architecture computer that I am using to write this comment). For me, that in no way removes the hard problem of consciousness, it only sharpens it.
Let me attempt to explain why I am unable to understand what the strong illusionist position is even saying. Right now, I’m looking at the blue sky outside my window. As I fix my eyes on a specific point in the sky and focus my attention on the color, I have an experience of “blueness.” The sky itself doesn’t have the property of phenomenological blueness. It has properties that cause certain wavelengths of light to scatter and other wavelengths to pass through. Certain wavelengths of light are reaching my eyes. That is causing receptors in my eyes to activate which in turn causes a cascade of neurons to fire across my brain. My brain is doing computation which I have no mental access to and computing that I am currently seeing blue. There is nothing in my brain that has the property of “blue”. The closest thing is something analogous to how a certain pattern of bits in a computer has the “property” of being ASCII for “A”. Yet I experience that computation as the qualia of “blueness.” How can that be? How can any computation of any kind create, or lead to qualia of any kind? You can say that it is just a story my brain is telling me that “I am seeing blue.” I must not understand what is being claimed, because I agree with it and yet it doesn’t remove the problem at all. Why does that story have any phenomenology to it? I can make no sense of the claim that it is an illusion. If the claim is just that there is nothing involved but computation, I agree. But the claim seems to be that there are no qualia, there is no phenomenology. That my belief in them is like an optical illusion or misremembering something. I may be very confused about all the processes that lead to my experiencing the blue qualia. I may be mistaken about the content and nature of my phenomenological world. None of that in any way removes the fact that I have qualia.
Let me try to sharpen my point by comparing it to other mental computation. I just recalled my mother’s name. I have no mental access to the computation that “looks up” my mother’s name. Instead, I go from seemingly not having ready access to the name to having it. There is no qualia associated with this. If I “say the name in my head”, I can produce an “echo” of the qualia. But I don’t have to do this. I can simply know what her name is and know that I know it. That seems to be consistent with the model of me as a computation. That if I were a computation and retrieved some fact from memory, I wouldn’t have direct access to the process by which it was retrieved from memory, but I would suddenly have the information in “cache.” Why isn’t all thought and experience like that? I can imagine an existence where I knew I was currently receiving input from my eyes that were looking at the sky and perceiving a shade which we call blue without there being any qualia.
For me, the hard problem of consciousness is exactly the question, “How can a physical/computational process give rise to qualia or even the ‘illusion’ of qualia?” If you tell me that life is not a vital force but is instead very complex tiny machines which you cannot yet explain to me, I can accept that because, upon close examination, those are not different kinds of things. They are both material objects obeying physical laws. When we say qualia are instead complex computations that you cannot yet explain to me, I can’t quite accept that because even on close examination, computation and qualia seem to be fundamentally different kinds of things and there seems to be an uncrossable chasm between them.
I sometimes worry that there are genuine differences in people’s phenomenological experiences which are causing us to be unable to comprehend what others are talking about. Similar to how it was discovered that certain people don’t actually have inner monologues or how some people think in words while others think only in pictures.
Do we need to RSVP in some way?
I can parse your comment a couple of different ways, so I will discuss multiple interpretations but forgive me if I’ve misunderstood.If we are talking about 3^^^3 dust specks experienced by that many different people, then it doesn’t change my intuition. My early exposure to the question included such unimaginably large numbers of people. I recognize scope insensitivity may be playing a role here, but I think there is more to it.If we are talking about myself or some other individual experiencing 3^^^3 dust specks (or 3^^^3 people each experiencing 3^^^3 dust specks), then my intuition considers that a different situation. A single individual experiencing that many dust specks seems to amount to torture. Indeed, it may be worse than 50 years of regular torture because it may consume many more years to experience them all. I don’t think of that as “moral learning” because it doesn’t alter my position on the former case.If I have to try to explain what is going on here in a systematic framework, I’d say the following. Splitting up harm among multiple people can be better than applying it to one person. For example, one person stubbing a toe on two different occasions is marginally worse than two people each stubbing one toe. Harms/moral offenses may separate into different classes such that no amount of a lower class can rise to match a higher class. For example, there may be no number of rodent murders that is morally worse than a single human murder. Duration of harm can outweigh intensity. For example, imagine mild electric shocks that are painful but don’t cause injury and furthermore that receiving one followed by another doesn’t make the second any more physically painful. Some slightly more intense shocks over a short time may be better than many more mild shocks over a long time. This comes in when weighing 50 years of torture vs 3^^^3 dusk specks experienced by one person though it is much harder to make the evaluation.Those explanations feel a little like confabulations and rationalizations. However, they don’t seem to be any more so than a total utilitarianism or average utilitarianism explanation for some moral intuitions. They do, however, give some intuition why a simple utilitarian approach may not be the “obviously correct” moral framework.If I failed to address the “aggregation argument,” please clarify what you are referring to.
At least as applied to most people, I agree with your claim that “in practice, and to a short-term, first-order approximation, moral realists and moral anti-realists seem very similar.” As a moral anti-realist myself, a likely explanation for this seems to be that they are engaging in the kind of moral reasoning that evolution wired into them. Both the realist and anti-realist are then offering post hoc explanations for their behavior.With any broad claims about humans like this, there are bound to be exceptions. Thus all the qualifications you put into your statement. I think I am one of those exceptions among the moral anti-realist. Though, I don’t believe it in any way invalidates your “Argument A.” If you’re interested in hearing about a different kind of moral anti-realist, read on.I’m known in my friend circle for advocating that rationalists should completely eschew the use of moral language (except as necessary to communicate to or manipulate people who do use it). I often find it difficult to have discussions of morality with both moral realists and anti-realists. I don’t often find that I “can continue to have conversations and debates that are not immediately pointless.” I often find people who claim to be moral anti-realists engaging in behavior and argument that seem antithetical to an anti-realist position. For example, when anti-realists exhibit intense moral outrage and think it justified/proper (esp. when they will never express that outrage to the offender, but only to disinterested third parties). If someone engages in a behavior that you would prefer they not, the question is how can you modify their behavior. You shouldn’t get angry when others do what they want, and it differs from what you want. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to get mad at others for not behaving according to your moral intuitions (except possibly in their presence as a strategy for changing their behavior).To a great extent, I have embraced the fact that my moral intuitions are an irrational set of preferences that don’t have to and never will be made consistent. Why should I expect my moral intuitions to be any more consistent than my preferences for food or whom I find physically attractive? I won’t claim I never engage in “moral learning,” but it is significantly reduced and more often of the form of learning I had mistaken beliefs about the world than changing moral categories. When debating the torture vs. dust specks problem with friends, I came to the following answer: I prefer dust specks. Why? Because my moral intuitions are fundamentally irrational, but I predict I would be happier with the dust specks outcome. I fully recognize that this is inconsistent with my other intuition that harms are somehow additive and the clear math that any strictly increasing function for combining the harm from dust specks admits of a number of people receiving dust specks in their eyes that tallies to significantly more harm than the torture. (Though there are other functions for calculating total utility that can lead to the dust specks answer.)
Not going to sign up with some random site. If you are the author, post a copy that doesn’t require signup.
I think moving to frontpage might have broken it. I’ve put the link back on.
I’m not sure I agree. Sure, there are lots of problems of the “papercut” kind, but I feel like the problems that concern me the most are much more of the “dragon kind”. For example:
There are lots of jobs in my career field in my city, but there don’t seem to be any that are actually do one of: do truly quality work, work on the latest technology where everything in the field will go in my opinion or produce a product/service that I care about. I’m not saying I can’t get those jobs, I’m saying in 15+ years working in this city I’ve never even heard of one. I could move across country and it might solve the job problem, but leaving my family and friends is a “dragon”.
Meeting women I want to date seems to be a dragon problem. I only know 2 women who I have met that meet my criteria.
I have projects I’d like to accomplish that will take many thousands of hours each. Given constraints of work, socializing, self care and trying to meet a girlfriend (see item 2), I’m looking at a really really long time before any of these projects nears completion even if I was able to be super dedicated to devoting a couple hours a day to them, which I have not been able to.
What is going on here? Copy me
Can I write a linke here [Yes](http://hangouts.google.com)
You should probably clarify that your solution is assuming the variant where the god’s head explodes when given an unanswerable question. If I understand correctly, you are also assuming that the god will act to prevent their head from exploding if possible. That doesn’t have to be the case. The god could be suicidal but perhaps not be able to die in any other way and so given the opportunity by you to have their head explode they will take it.
Additionally, I think it would be clearer if you could offer a final English sentence statement of the complete question that doesn’t involve self referential variables. The variables formation is helpful for seeing the structure, but confusing in other ways.
A couple typos:
The date you give is “(11/30)” it should be “(10/30)”
“smedium” should be “medium”
I feel strongly that link posts are an important feature that needs to be kept. There will always be significant and interesting content created on non-rationalist or mainstream sites that we will want to be able to link to and discuss on LessWrong. Additionally, while we might hope that all rationalist bloggers would be ok with cross-posting their content to LessWrong, there will likely always be those who don’t want to and yet we may want to include their posts in the discussion here.
A comment of mine