This question is mainly directed at people who are firm physicalists (as opposed to dualists) but still think qualia are "something extra to be explained". I believe Searle and Chalmers both fall into this category.
The easy problems of consciousness include those of explaining the following phenomena: the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli; the integration of information by a cognitive system; the reportability of mental states; the ability of a system to access its own internal states; the focus of attention; the deliberate control of behavior; the difference between wakefulness and sleep.
There is no real issue about whether these phenomena can be explained scientifically. All of them are straightforwardly vulnerable to explanation in terms of computational or neural mechanisms. To explain access and reportability, for example, we need only specify the mechanism by which information about internal states is retrieved and made available for verbal report.
The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism.
It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.
Understanding how the brain reports internal states is, according to Chalmers, one of the "easy problems".
In particular, one day science will offer a detailed physical description of the activity of Chalmers' brain while he was writing this very essay about qualia.
My observation is that that's very weird.
Think of the situation we would find ourselves in: we would have scientific theory that explained in detail what neurons are firing that lead to Chalmers' fingers clacking away on a keyboard and typing an essay on qualia. We would see inside Chalmers' brain and see areas that represent an understanding of the laws of physics, areas that represent visual stimuli, areas that conduct logic and reasoning, and finally areas that represent confusion and puzzlement. All these areas would act in concert to cause him to write: "Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does."
This is a really bizarre state of affairs! Chalmers is claiming that the "rich inner life" is somehow "something extra" in addition to or arising out of the laws of physics. But the laws of physics can perfectly well explain the physical processes that cause him to physically utter that claim. To me, this severely undercuts how seriously we should take Chalmers claim that there really is "something extra" to explain.
I'm assuming this observation has been raised before. It has a similar flavor to epiphenomenalist claims that theories of consciousness play no explanatory role because pure physical accounts can explain all observables already.
How have thinkers like Chalmers or Searle have addressed it, or how do you think they would?