As I smelled the delicious smell of the food, I started thinking about “Qualia”. Where does the feeling of smelling delicious come from? What if it only smells that good to me? What we perceive with our senses, why do we all experience it differently? Let’s look for answers to these questions together by examining Qualia.
What is Qualia?
Before examining Qualia as a notion, there are some notions that we need to think about and know such as consciousness, self-awareness…
Consciousness is the experience of being self-aware. Self-awareness is the state of consciousness being recognized by one’s self. Although I would like to talk more about it, no definite findings have been reached on consciousness yet, moreover, it is just a theory. Since I have very insufficient and barren information, I cannot gather my thoughts enough to write.
After distributing the subject sufficiently, let’s reach Qualia through consciousness and self-awareness. Qualia is the expression of the subjectivity of quality according to philosophy and science. For example, looking at an old photograph is actually a physical act. However, not every person can see the same thing when they look at the aforementioned photo. What the photograph in question evokes causes us to experience it differently. In this case, we have a quality, but we can only experience it subjectively and we call it “Qualia”.
We can say that qualia, is a part of consciousness. Consciousness is part of self-awareness. There are debates about the existence of Qualia, which we call the consciousness piece. Because we cannot express Qualia with our senses. It is rejected by some thinkers as it is a part of consciousness that can only be expressed physically and sensually through subjectivity.
From a logical point of view, we can say that even a tree has Qualia if it is shaped by subjective experiences. Even the inanimate unresponsiveness of a stone in water can be Qualia, although it is not entirely certain whether it is exclusively human.
Qualia (2019) by Naomie Kremer
Qualia and Evolution
There are contradictions about the validity of Qualia according to evolution. Since we still have limited information on consciousness, it should not be forgotten that we may face potential unknowns while making inferences about Qualia. The fact that the idea of Qualia cannot be refuted or that it makes sense does not prove its correctness or validity.
Having Qualia with qualified subjectivity may come across as a product of natural selection. It can be thought that having Qualia is an advantage in terms of our evolutionary survival.
Changes in the evolutionary process, such as an increase in brain size, may have created spaces in the mind for Qualia.
Bergson argues that for Qualia, individual experiences are the result of the fusion of memory data and layers of consciousness. What is this fusion? Let’s explain this with an experiment.
Bergson’s Thought Experiment
Let’s talk over two people, Paul and Piere. Let Paul be a super-philosopher and a perfect thinker, and Piere an ordinary man that we just turned from the street and included in the experiment. Could Paul, the superphilosopher, foresee or experience Piere’s thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and preferences?
In order for Paul to do this, he must imagine and experience Piere’s situation at a given moment (whether it’s important like choosing a university or making a decision like whether or not to drink water). But at the point where Paul is able to do just that, Paul transforms into an actor who replaces Piere. However, in order for Paul to have exactly the same experience, he must know and experience Piere’s life in all its details. This includes the simplest states of thought. If he can achieve this, Paul ceases to be Paul and becomes Piere. However, when you think about it, no matter how successful Paul is with experience, he can never be like Piere. Because even the slightest thought comes from our experiences and how long we experience them. In other words, if Paul missed one second of Piere’s experience of smelling a rose, he would not have had the same experience.
According to the results of the experiment, Bergson reached some conclusions about Qualia.
1- It is impossible for human consciousness states to be known by third parties.
2- In order to experience the state of a person at a given moment, the duration and qualities of all the states of consciousness of this person must be experienced.
3- In order for the second situation to be fully realized, the experiencer must begin the experience with zero memory data. Because the person also has his own memory data. It is inevitable to be influenced by these data.
4- To be able to make the second and third inferences possible means that the experienced and the experienced people are now the same people.
In that case, Paul will never know what it means to be like Piere.
The Qualia of Artificial Intelligence
If each of us perceives everything that is going on around us according to our experiences, then can artificial intelligence have consciousness and qualia?
Based on the information we have reviewed so far we can answer yes to this question. Because what we call Qualia is the subjectivity of experience, we said. From this, it is obvious that artificial intelligence can open the doors of its own world of experience after gaining self-awareness. An artificial intelligence that gains self-awareness will be the most intelligent species living with Qualia, and it seems that human superiority will come to an end with Qualia.
Whether this is a good thing is debatable. However, I think it is something that needs to happen. As a member of the human species, I think we have lived enough on earth, as superior beings. Don’t you think it’s time for something to change and evolve?
Vincent Petras, Qualia and Evolution What are the arguments for or against the existence of qualia according to evolution?, Linköping University The Department of Culture and Communication (IKK)