Sunday, November 14, 2004

Why Computer Games Give us a Way of Looking at the Problem of Qualia

Qualia is the mystery of mysteries. If the world really is just processes involving aggretations of atoms, then what kind of thing is that sensation that is the taste of an orange, what kind of thing is the visual image we see when we look around?

There's lot of other things we don't understand, but with other problems we usually have some idea of what an answer might look like. But with qualia we literally have no idea.

It seems impossible that it could be the product, like everything else, of processes involving atoms. It must be some special sort of entity, we think. And there may be literally no way for us to understand it, or if there is, we may not be smart enough to gain that understanding.

For an abrupt change of context, there's a tribes person living in an untouched, remote area. They have never seen or heard of modern technology, and they are given a gameboy. They see the little person on the screen, they see them moving about an environment, and they see how they can control this person's actions. It must be some sort of magic.

They know of nothing that is even remotely like this gameboy, and they have absolutely no idea how any such thing is possible. They have no idea of how they could even begin to understand it. But we know it can be understood, we know there's no magic.

Could qualia be to us like the gameboy is to the tribesperson?

1 comment:

  1. I think it was Asimov who said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".