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    The article by Aaronson is interesting, but when I read about the work he’s rebutting I thought: Ah the old academic clickbait trick of naming your boring cost function something interesting so as to get more reads.

    Also, I have sat in on some of Koch’s lectures. My main question in all of them is how someone brought up in the American heartland can have such a pronounced accent. I then heard rumors he cultivated that also as a form of academic clickbait.

    I do have a quibble. Aaronson states, as do many researchers

    The most obvious thing a consciousness theory could do is to explain why consciousness exists

    I think there is one step before this. I think the most important thing a theory of consciousness should do is first define what consciousness is and isn’t before it puts the rest of its clothes on.

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      I agree with your quibble. In fact I suspect that’s the real meat of the problem here, is that there is a concept floating around that we call consciousness, and this particular attempt to nail something concrete to it doesn’t seem to hit it all that close. Although I would have never known if I hadn’t read this takedown, and I agree with Aaronson that a bad attempt that follows the rules of science is better than a scientist writing a non-scientific book of poetry about what conscious is, implicitly appealing to their own expertise.

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        Consciousness is an internal hallucinatory synesthetic experience. While it is impossible to rely on reports of internal worlds, many humans report consciousness, and so it is worth investigating in a manner similar to pain, which is also intangible but associated with reports of internal worlds.

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          A theory of quantum mechanics doesn’t begin by defining what QM ‘is’. We would never have gotten anywhere if people had gotten stuck on that point.

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            Definition is particularly important when talking about “consciousness” because “consciousness” can refer to a wide variety of related phenomena, many of which have totally disjoint implications.

            • Bare subjectivity, like the consciousness of an amoeba.
            • The ability to remember and reason, like adult humans can do.
            • Remembering and reasoning, but not necessarily to the same degree as a human. Perhaps to the level of a lizard or something?
            • Having an internal monologue like (only most!) adult humans do.
            • Being awake as opposed to asleep.
            • Being aware of a particular thing as opposed to being influenced by it without active (“conscious”) awareness

            Etc. I’m sure we could come up with more given time.

            An important thing Newton did was to define what inertia meant in his system, which let others build off of it. We need that for consciousness too. I see tons of bad writing about consciousness which just jumps from “not asleep” to “whatever it is that medium size animals are doing” to “adult-like reasoning” with no consciousness (heh) of the slippage.

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              An important thing Newton did was to define what inertia meant in his system

              Yes, and that’s different from ‘defining what inertia is’. A word only has a meaning in a context. Subsequently his definition and use of ‘inertia’ turned out to be so useful that it drowned out most other definitions. Not because it was somehow more ‘correct’, just because it was more useful.

              We need that for consciousness too.

              I think you need to taboo the word the ‘consciousness’ if you want to get anywhere. We’d be better of with different words, or even the short explanatory sentences you just gave, for what specifically you are talking about when you would use that word.

              But even that doesn’t rid you of the ‘how do you define a game’ problem. Take “Being awake as opposed to asleep”. There is a continuum of states between ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’ (sleepwalking, drugs, psychiatric patients, the list of confounding phenomena is endless). Trying to define when someone should be considered ‘awake’ or ‘asleep’ is hopeless and useless as no succinct definition will ever match our lived experience of whether we would consider someone ‘awake’ or ‘asleep’.

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              The only thing separating science from nonsense is the clear definition of what we are measuring.

              Quantum Mechanics is extreme in that what we measure is extremely well defined but the interpretation of these measurements is difficult.

              The field of “Consciousness” studies is extreme in that it is full of interpretations but extremely fluffy on what we measure.

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                Surprisingly, the two topics are directly connected by the Free Will theorem. Start with the KS lemma and build up to Conway’s lectures. To sum up the connection: Is a particle conscious when it makes a choice in a quantum context?

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            My theory is that to be is to cause and to perceive is to be caused, but I don’t think I’m ever going to have time to write up a full explanation of it. Oh well, one for the ages.

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              It is possible to be more nuanced than Chalmers and Aaronson here. I personally think that I am a p-zombie, and by an argument of Turing, I think that all humans are p-zombies. This ruins Tononi’s argument from a new direction, since they assumed that consciousness has the same sort of durable eternal nature as souls as long as all components are aligned. (It also directly clashes with Aaronson’s belief that humans have souls.)