Lanier: You Can't Argue with a Zombie

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Lanier: You Can't Argue with a Zombie

Jaron Lanier



Quote:Let's suppose you run a more normal program (not a meteor shower) that implements the functional equivalent of your brain, a bunch of other people's brains, and the surrounding environment, so that you and the rest of the brains can have lots of experiences together. (This is the condition in which my test zombies thought that nothing fundamental would have changed; they'd still experience themselves and each other as if they were flesh.) You save a digital record, on the same disk that holds the program, of everything that happens to all of you. Now the experiences "pre-exist" on the disk. Take the disk out of the computer. Is this free-floating disk version of you still having experiences? After all, the information is all there. Why is this information sanctified into some higher state of being by having a processor just look at it? After all, the experiences have already been recorded, so the processor can do no new computation. A much simpler process that just copied the disk would perform exactly the same function13 as running your brain a second time.

The meteor shower arguments hint that computers might not be as objectively present as zombies like to assume, but the question needs further examination.

I claim that to a Martian, a Macintosh is the same sort of thing as a toaster or a rock. In order to perceive information, you have to put it in a cultural context, and that re-opens the can of worms that zombies have been trying to solder shut. Could "information" just be a shell game that hides the nut of old-style consciousness?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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