l'm currently writing a fictional story involving a scenario put together by Frank Jackson back in 1982.
Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like 'red', 'blue', and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence 'The sky is blue'. (…)
What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not? It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then is it inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that, and Physicalism is false.
I've discussed this scenario with a professor, who thought that in order to make the experiment more realistic (and believable for the reader) one could instead focus on the feeling of pain and not on the experience of colors. Furthermore, unlike the original thought experiment, l would like it to take place over a period of 20 years, instead of infinite time (which is required if one is to have infinite knowledge). The person would live in an environment that produces no harm of pain to him, while at the same time learning about the neuropsychology and the physics related to these experiences. After twenty years, he's let out and put through different sort of experiments where it would be expected that he experiences real physical pain. Again, the question would be, does he learn anything new?
My questions are, could one construct an environment where it could be realistic for this experiment to take place? Of course, one couldn't disprove materialism or dualism by conducting one such experiment, but could the outcome maybe be able to tip in favor of one of these philosophies? And is it possible the outcome could lay the basics for a new way of thinking (in this universe of course)? The latter question was more related to the character motivation on why one would choose to conduct this risky research. But most importantly, would this sound believable to a casual reader? It also has to mentioned, that the story neglects the ethical dilemmas related to the research, of obvious reasons.