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I am really only asking if a concept of "direct knowledge transfer" or perhaps "downloads" exists as a point of discussion or study in philosophy and cognitive sciences.

In information theory, we have a well-defined physics for transferring enormous quantities of "information" across various media. But information with "meaning" or that can be characterized as "knowledge" moves extremely slowly across nervous systems and cannot be synthesized or directly combined.

Is there some area of study that defines and addresses this issue? Perhaps in attempts to "quantify" meaning or to "compute" directly through cells or to theorize what a direct mind-mind synthesis might mean? I suppose this is also another way of approaching old issues concerning limits of the "self."

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In philosophy of mind, a starting point for discussing the difference between the mental and the physical is the fact that one's own mental states are infallible, self-intimating, and immediate. This provides mental states with a privileged epistemic status compared to other objects in the world. Presumably in the situation you are discussing, this privileged epistemic status will no longer apply to just one's own mental states, but to whatever mental states are being directly transferred via neural download or Vulcan mind meld.

Another way of looking at it, would be, following Frank Jackson's Mary the color blind scientist thought experiment, that whatever direct transfer method you are thinking of would have to transfer not just knowledge of the color red, but the qualia of red as well.

It would be interesting to see what such a transfer method implies for the self: can two selves remain separate once they access to each other's qualia? If Hofstadter is correct, probably not, since the two strange loops emerging from self-observation would have no way of distinguishing each other.

  • Yes, an interesting dichotomy. I never quite got the black-and-white Mary case. We can, of course, transfer qualia. Do it all the times in mood pills, music, movies, or simply by pointing. That and this are "red." And we can share qualia instantly and simultaneously, as in the theater-sensorium. You are right, knowledge can only move with qualia, which are slower than physical "information." – Nelson Alexander Nov 13 '15 at 18:40

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