Thursday, March 15, 2007

Am I a dualist?

Let me start the debate from my own point of view. Now, this should be the home base for any theory of consciousness. At least for me. And it might turn out that it is only for me. But that's besides the point right now.

I know I am conscious. I know I experience qualia. But what can I say of others around me? That is, assuming there are others around me for real!

A great many theories (especially in pop accounts) like "Weak AI", "Strong AI", "Multiple Drafts model", etc., don't however seem to pay attention to the fundamental question of what constitutes reality in the first place. All of these operate on the platform that -

1. I am conscious, and experience mental states like qualia (agreed, so far)
2. The world around me is real (whatever that means)
3. Other living beings around me in the world (in 2) seem similar to me (again in 2) physically and biologically and also behaviorally. (again, I would express my doubts here as to what "other" and "me" refer to in the first place, because of my inherent skepticism in 2)
4. Therefore by applying Occam's razor, I have to immediately extrapolate that the "others" are also conscious and can experience similar mental states to mine.
5. Now coming to the differences-
Weak AI - The mental states of the "others" (which I already believe in due to 4) cannot be attributed to any physical process in 2, but to something else not explainable by any phenomenon in 2.
Strong AI - The mental states of the "others" is a result of computation processes (happening in the physical world of 2) and are the same source of my own mental states.
Multiple drafts model - Its the same as strong AI, just with more technical details.

There is also Eliminativism which denies mental states and contradicts even 1 (which is incidentally, the only numbered statement I am in agreement with!). I do not take this seriously.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, strong AI, in its various flavors, is just eliminativism in disguise. This is incidentally the view espoused by famous computer scientists like Marvin Minsky, Douglas Hofstadter, or Hans Moravec. But well, this is my perception. Dennett's arguments on explaining consciousness explains zilch. Perhaps just an eyewash?

Well, whatever be the case, one thing is for sure - all these don't question the validity of 2, that there is an absolute reality independent of my consciousness.

I have coined the term the "Terra firma assumption" for this.

I do not know why computer scientists and psychologists make this assumption in the first place. This is retrograde.

Especially considering the fact that debates on monism/dualism/solipsism are much older and don't take 2 for granted. In my opinion these debates are perhaps more profound than the current debates (especially among AI scientists and behavioral psychologists). We need to question our notion of reality itself if we are to get anywhere.

With this I would like to conclude this post. Stay tuned.