“Of course,” agreed J. “A blind man and a deaf man cannot compare sounds and colors. One hears them and the other one sees them, but could they compare them if they are together? Not even if they were to live in the same house forever, not if they were conjoined twins.” Like Ishma and El, thought Galileo.
“Nice words,” said Alturi, standing next to Galileo. “But what’s the point? We were arguing about the information in a camera, and you saw that, if the camera is large enough, it can be as much or more than the information generated by a brain. Which shows that information, as S. was saying, has little to do with consciousness. Isn’t it so?”
Galileo hesitated. If one measured information the way S. did, a camera was better than a brain: the larger the repertoire of states available to a system, the greater the reduction of uncertainty— the greater the information generated by the particular state the system was in. But was this the right way of measuring information? He thought of what J. had said, of the scientists in the northern and southern hemispheres, of Ishmael’s left and right hemispheres. So he tried:
It should make a difference if the information is generated by a system that is one, rather than just a collection of parts.
“Quite possibly,” said Alturi. “And how would one show the difference?” He smiled, as if he knew that Galileo could not provide an answer.
“I wish I knew,” said J., as if he knew there could not be an answer. Galileo paused, as if lacking for words, then turned to J., and asked:
If, with an extraordinarily thin and sharp blade, old Occam’s razor, say, one were to split in two the sensor of the camera, in such a way that half a million photodiodes lie on one side, and the other half a million on the other side, what would then happen to the image seen by the camera?
“Nothing would happen, of course,” answered J. “The camera would go on working just as well, taking full pictures, the pictures could be sent over the air, stored and replayed at will, and no one would notice any difference.”
Galileo held up the camera, and took a picture, with the split sensor, of what was now on the screen before them. It was an Italian word, SONO, the word for “I am,” and SONO was seamlessly displayed.
Indeed, said Galileo to J. As long as the sensor is in place, nothing will change, because every one of the million photodiodes will go on reporting its own separate dot, unaware of what its peers are seeing.
But what if, with a thin and sharp blade, one were to split in two a brain? Recall Ishmael’s brain, in the crypt of Prince Venosa, when Salerno froze the connections between his two hemispheres. Would nothing change, as with the camera? You know it already, said Galileo without waiting for an answer. Ishmael split into Ishma and El, and Ishma saw the lady, and El the brute, but no one saw them both— there was no Ishmael who could see the adultery, as long as the two hemispheres were split. But when the hemispheres embraced again with warmth, there was Ishmael again, and Ishmael saw the couple joined.
You know the answer then: Ishma would see SO, the Italian word for “I know,” El would see NO, the word for “no,” but there would be no Ishmael who would see SONO, and say, “I am.” Unlike the camera image, the blade would split the conscious image and consciousness itself would be divided.