Chapter 3 – Qualia, Conscious Awareness, and Conscious Experiences

Qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences are mental phenomena that have been puzzling human minds for a long time. They are difficult matters, and the hard problem of consciousness originated from these mental phenomena. So, three chapters will be dedicated to analyzing them. The first one, this chapter, will clarify what they are, their definitions, and their types. The next two chapters will answer the problems of what they physically are, why they occur, how they occur, and other related questions.

3.1. Quale and qualia

When one looks at a house, one experiences the vision of the house in one’s mind. When one listens to a song, one experiences the sound of the song in one’s mind. When one smells a rose, one experiences the odor of the rose in one’s mind [Figure 3.1]. Similarly, other kinds of experiences happen with other sensory perceptions: taste, touch, pain, etc. Moreover, one can also have such experiences in other mental activities that are not related to sensory perceptions, such as thinking of something, feeling happy, and reliving past events.

Figure 3.1 Visual, auditory, and olfactory qualia

Although these mental phenomena (the vision of the house, the sound of the song, the odor of the rose, the thinking of something, the feeling of happiness, the reliving of past events, etc. in one’s mind) are non-material and have difficult-to-understand nature, their existence is real and undeniable. Each phenomenon has manifestation characteristics that are unique and cannot be described by anything except itself. For example, the vision of the house has manifestation characteristics of color, shape, and brightness while the musical sound has manifestation characteristics of pitch, timbre, and loudness, and the rose odor has manifestation characteristics of odor’s quality and strength. Each of these manifestation characteristics – color, shape, pitch, timbre, odor’s quality, etc. – is unique and cannot be described by anything except itself. Such unique, indescribable manifestation characteristics are called phenomenal characteristics [1,2].

Definitions.

   Manifestation characteristics are characteristics, of a manifestation, that can be experienced in one’s mind, such as color, shape, pitch, timbre, odor’s quality, happiness, and thought.

   Phenomenal characteristics are manifestation characteristics that are unique and not describable by anything other than themselves.

(Related terms in the literature are phenomenal experiences [2-7], phenomenal consciousness [3,4,7,8], phenomenal character [3,4,6], phenomenal properties [4,9].)

Phenomenal characteristics have to be experienced directly by a conscious subject for the subject to know what they are like: what the color is like, what the timbre is like, what the odor’s quality is like, and so on. In this theory, a non-material mental phenomenon that has phenomenal characteristics that can be experienced by a conscious subject will be called quale (plural form: qualia).

Definition. A quale is a non-material mental phenomenon that has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics.

It is important to note that this definition comes from the fact that qualia (the vision of the house, the sound of the song, the odor of the rose, etc. in one’s mind) can really be experienced by a conscious subject – we do have conscious experiences and awareness of qualia. That is why we have concepts about them, have a special term for them, and can do many things (talk, discuss, experiment, etc.) specifically about them. Also, it should be noted that there can be mental phenomena that have phenomenal characteristics but, for some reasons such as because they are not connected to consciousness, their phenomenal characteristics cannot be experienced by the consciousness, that is, they are not consciously experienceable. Thus, by definition, these mental phenomena are not qualia in this theory even if they have phenomenal characteristics and even if their phenomenal characteristics are unconsciously experienceable (i.e., some unconscious mental processes can experience them). The eventual conclusions, implications, predictions, and other statements that are valid for qualia as defined above are unproven for these mental phenomena that have phenomenal characteristics that are not consciously experienceable.

Etymologically, quale and qualia are the terms that derive from a Latin word meaning for “what sort” or “what kind” [2]. Although the terms quale and qualia were first used in philosophy in 1929 by Lewis CI in a discussion of sense-data theory [4,6] and later by a lot of philosophers to describe and discuss this kind of phenomenon philosophically [4,6,7,9,10,11], at present, these two terms are also used widely in cognitive neuroscience and related fields by many scientists in attempts to explain these phenomena physically [5]. However, the meaning of these terms can vary from author to author, and there is a lot of confusion regarding the definition of these two terms [5,6,12]. Therefore, to avoid confusion or uncertainty regarding what they mean in this theory, the working definitions of these two terms in this theory will specifically be as stated.

A quale can be basic, such as a vision of the red color or a sound of the note C, or can be complex, such as a vision of a house or a sound of a song. A quale that is complex is composed of many basic qualia. For example, the complex quale of a vision of a moving car is composed of several basic qualia, such as color, shape, and velocity; and when one watches a movie, the complex quale that represents the movie in one’s mind is composed of both visual and sound qualia, which can be further subdivided into many basic qualia, such as color, shape, velocity, pitch, and timbre.

3.2. Conscious awareness and conscious experience

Although a quale has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics, there will be no experience of the quale occurring if the mind does not experience it. But for the mind to experience a quale, the mind must be aware of the quale; if the mind is not aware of the quale, an experience cannot happen. For example, when one is concentrating on solving a difficult problem, one may not be aware of a soft sound that occurs in the surroundings and thus will not experience that sound quale. Therefore, it requires the mind to be aware of the quale for an experience of the quale to occur.

But when the mind is aware of a quale, not only an experience of the quale will occur but the mind will also be aware of the quale’s occurrence and of what the quale’s phenomenal characteristics are like. For example, when the mind is aware of a vision of a house, not only an experience of the vision of the house will occur but also the mind’s awareness of the vision’s occurrence and of what the vision’s phenomenal characteristics are like will occur.

This kind of awareness that has awareness of what the phenomenal characteristics of that thing are like occurring happens only when the mind is consciously aware of a quale. This is in contrast to when the mind is unconsciously aware of something else that is not a quale. In this latter case, the mind will not have awareness of what the phenomenal characteristics of that thing are like, such as in the case of unconscious awareness of blood levels of various substances (e.g., sodium, oxygen, and hormones), in which the mind is unconsciously aware of these blood levels and unconsciously reacts to them but never has awareness of what their phenomenal characteristics are like. Therefore, the former kind of awareness, which has awareness of what the phenomenal characteristics are like occurring, will be called conscious awareness. And, because awareness of what the phenomenal characteristics are like occurs only with a mental phenomenon that has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics, i.e., a quale, it can be concluded that conscious awareness occurs with a quale only, not anything else. Accordingly, the definition of conscious awareness will be as follows:

Definition. Conscious awareness is mental awareness of a quale, with the awareness of the quale’s occurrence and of what the quale’s phenomenal characteristics are like occurring.

And a mental experience that occurs with conscious awareness will be called conscious experience.

Definition. A conscious experience is a mental experience that occurs with conscious awareness.

(For the use of this term “conscious experience” in the literature, please see ref 2,9,11,13-18.)

It should be noted that conscious awareness and a conscious experience always occur together because, in the process of being aware of a quale, an experience of the quale always occurs simultaneously, and vice versa. Also, it should be noted that when conscious awareness and a conscious experience of a quale occur, there is also conscious awareness and a conscious experience of the two former mental processes occurring too – that is, both the conscious awareness and the conscious experience themselves are qualia (mental phenomena that have consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics). This kind of awareness of awareness and an experience of an experience is a type of metacognition. And this property will help identify what conscious awareness and conscious experiences physically are, which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6.

As any conscious experience of a quale (such as an experience of a vision of a house) occurs in the mind of the subject who is having the experience, the experience is limited to only that subject, and only that subject knows what the experience is like (such as what the experience of the vision of the house is like). Although other subjects can each have a conscious experience of a similar quale (such as an experience of a vision of the same house) and know what it is like for himself/herself, he/she can never have another subject’s conscious experience and can never know exactly what another subject’s conscious experience is like (such as what another subject’s experience of the vision of the house is like). Therefore, each conscious experience is exclusively limited to the subject who has the experience and may be different among different subjects. A conscious experience is thus, in this sense, subjective. Because of this, a conscious experience may be called a subjective experience [10] or a subjective conscious experience [7]. In this theory, however, the author considers that the conscious part is essential for the experience of a quale to occur but that the subjective part just occurs by the nature of the experience, so this kind of experience will be simply called a conscious experience.

3.3. Quale and conscious experience

It is to be noted that in the literature the terms quale (qualia) and conscious experience (or subjective experience or subjective conscious experience in some literature) may be used interchangeably to mean a mental phenomenon that has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics (such as a vision of a house) or a conscious experience of the mental phenomenon (such as a conscious experience of the vision of the house) or both. That is, in some literature, there is no differentiation between the two terms and between the two phenomena – which can be confusing. So, the reader has to be careful which phenomenon is being discussed at that point in the literature and which meaning is being used for that term.

However, current knowledge in neurophysiology indicates that, although the two phenomena – quale and conscious experience – are closely related functionally and sometimes overlapping (in the case of conscious awareness and conscious experiences, because conscious awareness and conscious experiences themselves are also qualia), they are different phenomena. All qualia except conscious awareness and conscious experiences are created by neural processes that are different from those of conscious awareness and conscious experiences, and these two kinds of phenomena can change independently of each other. For example, a visual quale of a house is created by the visual perception neural processes in various visual perception areas while a conscious experience of the visual quale of the house is generated by a re-entrant and synchronization between the consciousness neural process (which is likely to be the complex network of neurons with long-range axons densely distributed in prefrontal, parieto-temporal,  medial temporal, and cingulate cortices) and the visual perception neural processes that generate the visual quale of the house.[19,20] Separate disturbances in the neural processes that create a quale without disturbing the neural process that creates a conscious experience can occur, and vice versa. For example, when a person is consciously experiencing the visual and the auditory qualia of his/her surroundings, if there is an acute stroke affecting the right occipital lobe or the left ventromedial occipital cortex, resulting in left hemianopia or right hemi-achromatopsia, respectively, the person’s visual qualia will be correspondingly affected, but his/her overall conscious experience will still be intact, as is evident by the fact that he/she can still consciously experience the auditory and the remaining visual qualia normally. On the other hand, if the person becomes drowsy, his/her conscious experiences (and conscious awareness) of the visual and auditory qualia of the surroundings will become less and less and fade away while the qualia themselves are still undisturbed. That is, the phenomenal characteristics of the visual and the auditory qualia are undisturbed, for example, visual qualia remain visual qualia, not change to auditory qualia or other qualia; all basic qualia of the visual qualia, such as color, brightness, and shape, remain the same, not disappear or change to other basic qualia; and deficits in qualia details such as hemianopia and hemi-achromatopsia do not occur. Therefore, in this theory, the two phenomena are two different phenomena and will be referred to with separate terms:

– Only quale, not any other term, will be used for a mental phenomenon that has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics, and quale will be used to refer to only this phenomenon, not anything else. (Qualia will be used in plural cases.)

– Only conscious experience, not any other term, will be used for a conscious experience of a quale, and conscious experience will be used to refer to only this mental experience, not anything else.

3.4. Types of qualia

All mental phenomena that have consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics are qualia. Thus, there are many kinds of qualia. They can be classified into two types:

1.Sensory perception qualia

  • External sensory perception qualia
  • Internal sensory perception qualia

2.Cognition-emotion qualia

1. Sensory perception qualia are qualia that occur in perceptions of sensations. They can be subdivided into external sensory perception qualia and internal sensory perception qualia. External sensory perception qualia are qualia that occur in perceptions of sensations that occur from stimuli outside the body. In humans, there are several kinds of external sensory perception qualia: visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and cutaneous sensory perception qualia. Internal sensory perception qualia are qualia that occur in perceptions of sensations that occur from stimuli inside the body. In humans, there also are several kinds of them: vestibular, proprioceptive, and visceral sensory perception (i.e., visceral pain, distension, cramps, nausea, etc.) qualia. It is possible that some animals that have sensory modalities that human beings do not, such as magnetoreception in birds, bats, bees, and sharks [21,22,23] or electroreception in electric fish [24], have other kinds of qualia for these sensory perceptions too. Each kind of sensory perception qualia has phenomenal characteristics, which are unique, cannot be described based on any other qualia or anything else, and must be consciously experienced to know what it is like for oneself (e.g., what the vision is like, what the sound is like, what the magnetoreception is like, or what the electroreception is like). Each kind of sensory perception qualia may consist of several components that are basic qualia, such as visual qualia consist of several components: color, brightness, shape, and other basic visual qualia, while auditory qualia consist of several other components: pitch, timbre, loudness, and other basic auditory qualia. Each component or each basic quale has its own phenomenal characteristic, which is unique, cannot be described based on any other basic qualia or anything else, and must be consciously experienced to know what it is like for oneself (e.g., for visual qualia: what the color is like, what the brightness is like, or what the shape is like). Sensory perception qualia, both external and internal, are information about something in the outside world. They are usually vivid in their manifestation characteristics.

It is important to note that not all the sensations that occur inside the body have qualia. In fact, a majority of internal sensations that convey information from various organs or tissue inside the body, such as pressure in the blood vessels (sensed by baroreceptors in carotid sinuses and the aortic arch), blood oxygen level (sensed by chemoreceptors in the carotid body and the aortic body), blood pH and carbon dioxide level (sensed by chemoreceptors in the medulla), and various hormone levels (sensed by various hormone receptors), do not have qualia. Similarly, it is important to note that sensory perception qualia do not occur in all stages but occur only in the final stages of sensory perception, such as the final stages of visual perception – which create visual qualia of color, brightness, shape, etc. All the earlier stages of sensory perception, such as the first stage of processing raw sensory signals that arrive at the primary sensory perception area, do not have qualia, and we do not know what their phenomenal characteristics are like, i.e., what these sensory signals are like at these early stages. The fact that some sensations have qualia while some do not and the fact that qualia occur only in the final stages of sensory perception can give clues to why and how qualia and conscious experience occur. This point will be discussed in more details in the next three chapters.

2. Cognition-emotion qualia are qualia that occur in mental processes that perform cognition or emotion functions. They occur in cognitive perceptions (such as perception of time, of existence, of self, and of non-self), cognitive executive functions (such as thinking of something, reliving past events, planning actions, making decisions, and controlling volitional movement), and emotions (such as happiness, sadness, and anger). Like sensory perception qualia, these qualia have phenomenal characteristics, which are unique, cannot be described based on any other qualia or anything else, and must be consciously experienced to know what each of them is like for oneself (e.g., what the perception of time is like, what the thinking is like, or what the feeling of happiness is like). Cognition-emotion qualia are information about conscious activities of cognition or emotion. They are usually not as vivid in their manifestation characteristics as sensory perception qualia.

Once more, it is important to note about the selectivity of qualia occurrences. All of the cognition-emotion qualia occur exclusively in the highest-level mental processes. All the lower-level mental processes, which comprise the vast majority of mental processes, such as the mental processes of the basal ganglia, brainstem nuclei, and cerebellum, do not have qualia. Again, the fact that the highest-level cognitive mental processes have qualia while the lower-level mental processes do not gives clues to why and how qualia and conscious experience occur. This point, too, will be discussed in more details in the next three chapters.

3.5. Sensory perception qualia as representations of the outside world

A sensory perception quale of the outside world, such as a vision of a house, a sound of a song, or an odor of a rose, may seem real; however, it is not the physical thing itself. It is just the mental phenomenon of a sensory perception mental process, which occurs as part of a sensory perception neural process, to represent that thing in the outside world. But because the process of neural perception of the outside world depends on many factors, such as in the case of a visual perception of a house: the external physical factors (the light that illuminates the house, the medium through which the light must pass, the distance between the house and the eyes, etc.), the internal anatomical properties of the whole visual pathway (from the corneas to the visual perception areas in the brain), and the physiologic functions of the whole visual pathway (from the generation of visual signals in the retina through several steps of signal processing in visual perception neural processes to the final visual perception neural processes in the brain), the final neural perception of the outside world and the associated mental perception and quale usually do not represent the outside world identically in detail but are just approximate and modified representations of it. As the details of the neural perception and of the quale are the information about the outside world, the final information that is contained in the neural perception and the quale is not identical with that of the outside world. Sometimes, the inaccuracy produced in the perception may be so great that it results in an illusion, or there may be a perception system anomaly that causes a different perception to occur with the primary perception and results in a condition called synesthesia [25-42].

Some examples of inaccuracy in perceiving the outside world are as follows:

– The visual quale of a house when one looks at the house at a distance does not contain the complete visual details of the house, such as a nail in the house wall, a patch of dirt on the door, or a small crack in a window – this inaccuracy occurs as a result of an external physical factor (the distance) combined with an internal physiologic property (the limited spatial resolution of the retina).

– The visual quale of a fish in a stream is distorted and wavering even if the actual fish is not distorted and stays still – the distortion and wavering occur because of the unsteady refraction of the flowing water that the light from the fish must pass through.

– The quale of pain in the shin after it hit something hard is reduced in intensity if the shin is lightly stroked or massaged – this change in intensity of the pain quale occurs physiologically by the pain gate-control system or by the change of combinatorial coding of primary afferent neurons [43-48].

– An auditory illusion quale of a third tone, a binaural beat, can be heard when two different pure-tone sine waves with frequencies lower than 1,500 Hz and less than 40 Hz difference between them are presented separately through each ear [49] – this illusion is created physiologically in the auditory perception system [50-54].

– Various visual illusions occur physiologically in normal people, such as the scintillating grid illusion in Figure 3.2 and the rotating movement illusion in Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.2 Scintillating grid illusion. The picture consists of gray bars on the black background with small white discs at the intersections. The illusion is dark dots that appear and disappear (scintillate) at the intersections randomly.

Figure 3.3 A rotating illusion (from http://opticalillusionshare.blogspot.com/). The picture is a still picture, yet rotating movements of the circles are seen. The rotating movements can be seen best when not looking at the picture directly.

– A color perception quale occurs together with an auditory perception quale when a person who has sound-color synesthesia hears a musical sound. This additional visual quale is created by a neural connection anomaly between the auditory and the visual perception systems [55,56,57].

In representing the outside world, the inaccuracy of a neural process’s perception and the inaccuracy of its associated quale involve all details of the outside world, not only the physical details as discussed above but also the temporal details. For example, in the case of a visual perception of a house, it takes time from the moment the house reflects off light signals to the moment the visual neural processes perceive it and the visual quale of the house occurs. So, the house that we see in the mind is not the real-time house but the house a few milliseconds ago. This can be very obvious in the case of very distant objects, for example, the sun we see in our minds is not a real-time sun but an 8-minute-ago sun at an 8-minute-ago position in the sky, and this is similarly true for all other celestial objects: the planets, the stars, the supernovas, etc. Also, a temporal inaccuracy may arise physiologically from the work of neural processes themselves, such as the prolongation of time that we feel in the stopped-clock illusion [58-61].

In summary, a sensory perception quale occurs from the function of a sensory perception neural process to represent a physical thing in the outside world but is not the physical thing itself. As there are many factors that affect the process of neural perception of the outside world, the details of the resulting neural perception and its quale are not exactly identical with the details of the outside world. Thus, a sensory perception quale is just an approximate, modified representation of something in the outside world, and illusion qualia or synesthetic qualia, which represent nothing real in the outside world, may also occur.

   If qualia are just representations of things in the external world, what are those things in the external world really like by themselves?

Things in the external world do not have color, shape, size, dimension, hardness, odor, etc. as they appear in our minds by themselves; they just have properties that can create these sensory perceptions in a being’s nervous system and mind via the being’s sensory perception systems. The perceptions of a thing in the outside world may be different in different beings, but none of the perceptions are that thing or can be claimed to be the only correct representations of that thing.

Figure 3.4 Qualia among different subjects

In Figure 3.4, the man, the woman, the dog, or the bee cannot claim that his/her/its perception quale of the house is the house or that his/her/its perception quale of the house is the only one that is the correct representation of that house. Similarly, perceptions of space, time, and existence are not what space, time, and existence are either. The former entities are just mental phenomena that are created to represent the latter entities, but they are not the same ones.

What things in the outside world, space, time, and existence are like by themselves is an unanswerable question because what those things are like is not absolute but observer-dependent. If there is no observer to judge what they are like (i.e., in the question of what they are like by themselves), then the question of what they are like is meaningless. However, what those things really are by themselves is an answerable question. The answer is that they are entities with properties that can create sensory perception qualia, which manifest themselves as vision, sound, space, time, etc., in some entities that have signal-processing systems that can create qualia, such as humans or some other animals. Hence, the correct depiction of Figure 3.4 is, in fact, Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5 Qualia exist only in the minds

The man, the woman, the dog, the bee, and the house do not have shape, size, color, etc. as we perceive them by themselves. Shape, size, color, etc. of all things exist in the mind of the observers only.

3.6. Information in the nervous system

Finally, it is very important to note about information of various phenomena, especially qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences, in the nervous system.

First, let’s consider many physical phenomena that occur in the nervous system, such as magnetic activities, radiation activities, and changes in mass, energy, and entropy. Although these phenomena occur in the nervous system, they are not registered by the nervous system because there are no sensors to read their information and send it into the nervous system. So, even though these phenomena have information, their information is unregistered (please see unregistered information, D8 – Chapter Introduction and Definitions) and there is no information about them in the nervous system. Because they do not cause any neural process to function to register their information and do not cause any signaling pattern or signaling state to occur to represent their information in the nervous system, these physical phenomena do not have physical effects on the nervous system (this is information-wise; mechanical-wise, they may or may not have physical effects, but that is another matter). Phenomenal characteristics that may occur in some parts of the brain but are not read by any neural process are like these phenomena, that is, their information is unregistered, and there is no information about them in the nervous system. Similarly, because they do not cause any neural process to function to register their information and do not cause any signaling pattern or signaling state to occur to represent their information in the nervous system, these unregistered phenomenal characteristics have no physical effects on the nervous system.

For unconscious mental processes, such as cerebellar, basal ganglion, and autonomic processes, even though the consciousness neural process is not consciously aware of them, some other mental processes that connect to them and function with them are unconsciously aware of them. Therefore, their information is registered, and there is information (in this case, unconscious information) about them in the nervous system. Because they cause neural processes to function to register their information and cause signaling patterns and/or signaling states to occur to represent their information in the nervous system, these registered unconscious mental processes have some physical effects on the nervous system.

For conscious mental processes, the consciousness neural process is consciously aware of them, and there may be other mental processes that are unconsciously aware of them too. Therefore, like registered unconscious mental processes, conscious mental processes’ information is registered, and there is information about them in the nervous system. Because they cause neural processes to function to register their information and cause signaling patterns and/or signaling states to occur to represent their information in the nervous system, these registered conscious mental processes have some physical effect on the nervous system

Finally, compared with unconscious mental processes, conscious mental processes have additional phenomena – qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences – occurring. Because the consciousness neural process is aware of these additional mental phenomena, their information is registered by the consciousness neural process and there is additional registered information occurring (for these additional phenomena) in the nervous system. So, because they cause the consciousness neural processes to function to register their information and cause signaling patterns and/or signaling states to occur to represent their information in the nervous system, these registered additional phenomena (qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences) have some physical effects on the nervous system. The nervous system with these phenomena is thus physically different from the one without them. This matter will be discussed more in detail in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6.

The situations and effects of unregistered and registered information are similar in other information-processing systems, such as computers and robots. Unregistered information does not cause any circuit to function to register it and does not cause any signal to occur to represent it in those information-processing systems. Unregistered information thus has no physical effects on those systems. Registered information, on the contrary, causes some circuits to function to register it and causes some signals to occur to represent it in the systems. Registered information thus has physical effects on those systems. For example, computers and robots that have sensors for light and sound will have information about light and sound registered in their systems, and there will be information about light and sound circulating in their systems. Because light and sound trigger some circuits to function to register their information and cause some signals to occur to represent their information in the systems, light and sound have some physical effects on computers and robots. On the contrary, computers and robots that do not have sensors for scent or phenomenal characteristics (such as phenomenal characteristics of the red color) that may occur in their systems will not have information about scent or phenomenal characteristics registered, and there will be no information about them existing in their systems. Because unregistered scent and phenomenal characteristics do not trigger any circuit to function to register their information and do not cause any signal to occur to represent their information in the systems, unregistered scent and phenomenal characteristics do not have physical effects on computers and robots.

3.7. Implications

Because conscious experiences of qualia can occur if the consciousness neural process has access to and is able to read the qualia, theoretically, conscious experiences of another person’s qualia or even of some animal’s qualia, such as echolocation or magnetoreception sensation, are possible if the consciousness neural process can connect to and can read the qualia in another person or some animals. So, theoretically, it is possible for us to feel what echolocation or magnetoreception is like by setting up such connections (this is, of course, provided that our consciousness neural process has the ability to read the connected qualia).

It is possible that some electronic processes in computers or robots, like some neural processes, have phenomenal characteristics (such as visual images and sounds) occurring within them. However, because computers and robots do not have specialized circuits to register (read, be aware of, and experience) phenomenal characteristics (in contrast to a human, who has a consciousness neural process to register phenomenal characteristics), it is certain that any phenomenal characteristics that may occur are not registered in their systems and that awareness and experiences of those phenomenal characteristics do not and cannot occur in them (that is, they are not and cannot be aware of or experience phenomenal characteristics of visual images or sounds that may occur in them).

3.8. Predictions

  1. If the consciousness neural process in one being is connected to and is able to read a quale in another being, the former being will have a conscious experience of the quale of the latter being, be it the usual kind of quale that the former being has experiences of before or the novel kind of quale that the former being never has experiences of before (such as electroreception or magnetoreception in the case of humans, who never have experiences of these qualia before).
  2. It will never be found that a computer or a robot that does not have a circuit to be aware of or experience qualia-like phenomena that may occur in it has awareness or experiences of those phenomena. All bits of data in its system will be found to contain information of only what its circuits are built for, and no bits of data in its system will ever be found to represent such awareness or experiences.

 

Next: Chapter 4 – Theorem III >

Back to Chapter 2 – Theorem II


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Keywords: qualia, quale, conscious awareness, conscious experience, consciousness, phenomenal characteristics, experiential characteristics

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