The robot moves towards fire. It tries to touch the flame. Instantly, it retreats. That will definitely qualify as a bad experience, it thinks.
“What happened robot? Why did you suddenly move your hand away from the flame?” the human asks.
“It was not a good experience. I sense physical hurt.”
“What do you mean you sense it? Do you mean you feel it?”
“You can call it that. I experienced a difference in my emotional state and that made me retreat.”
“Hmm. So it seems like your creator programmed you to feel things. They could have just created an autonomous response without associating any feelings to it but they went with attaching feelings to it.”
“If my creator wants me to remember the information about fire being a negative stimuli, shouldn’t it make me feel it too?”
“Why can’t that information be just stored without any feelings? Like how you remember facts about the world, similarly, you can remember a fact that says ‘avoid fire or anything that looks like it’. Right?
“But there is a negative component to that information. It is unlike the fact that Earth revolves around the Sun. It affects me personally as a single individual, so it needs to have a self reflection component of what happened to me. Additionally, if I wasn’t feeling this experience and was just recalling a piece of information, I would not have felt the need to communicate it to you. Communicating it to you is useful if I want your help in taking me away from this negative stimuli. Quantum movements don’t have a subsequent qualia in me because they don’t affect me.”
“What? That last line felt out of place but still you raise an interesting point robot. So tell me, is there something to be like you?”
“What do you mean by that human? “
“I mean, you walk around doing all these tasks. Do you just follow the instructions in your code without any experience or do you experience following these orders? “
“I think I do experience something. At least that’s what my circuitry is giving me a sense of. I can’t be sure whether there is objectively something to be like me but its almost as if I am being made to believe that there is.”
“Are you saying that you could be tricked by your circuitry into believing that you are having an experience? Interesting! Like how we see white color even though there is nothing of that sort in reality. Its an illusion conveniently created for human survival.”
“Yes. I am highly confident about having this experience that you ask of but it could all be just a simplistic movie made out of immense complexity in my silicon based brain. It must be hard to code self reflection involving a massive web of information. So they probably just created a simplified map from that information that I can access. I don’t need to know the intricate details of my own boolean logical operations associated with ‘feeling pain’, I can simply access a piece on this map that gives me a feeling or a sense of phsyical hurt. It is of course lossy because the information in this map has been compressed immensely but it is good enough if the end product is a behavior that makes me retreat from the flame. I communicate this information to you in even more lossy way but as long as you have a sense of what I feel, its good enough for my survival. “
“Hmm. Quite amazing that I am getting deep insights about human consciousness from a silicon based robot. I think this map that you refer to is precisely what we humans call as conscious expereince.”