Hello Joe, > > I have difficulty with the concept of many distinct programs, each > representing an individual conscious entity. My understanding of modern physics > is that the concept of an isolated individual is essentially obsolete, in that > nothing can be defined without relation to everything else. As a result, surely > the underlying "program" for each must be similarly connected, so that in fact > an individual physical object is simply a concentration of processes operating > in one part of the program?
Indeed. Our universe operates via simple laws, and, as a consequence, all the complexity that it generates must be highly compressible. That implies that everything becomes related at the macroscopic level. > The significance of this is that the paradox of intelligent objects > doesn't arise at all. I work on the assumption that your program is synonymous > with universal awareness (the abstract form of consciousness), and that > intelligence would be the result of local information-processing systems. > Partly because of the view of everything being inter-related, I'm uncomfortable > with a sharp, intelligent/non-intelligent distinction, and have no problem with > a mechanical object expressing a very low degree of "intelligence". Indeed, > anything which responds to stimuli could be seen in this way, including a rock > undergoing thermal expansion. However, an object can only become self-aware > once the processing centre is reasonably complex, and based on sufficient > local inputs to define a boundary to the region of the observer; this, I guess, > would be the manifestation of a closed (or at least self-referent) processing > loop within the program. > As I understand your view, it by-passes the paradox by introducing > arbitrariness, and any approach of this type seems to me to result in more > problems. At what point in evolution did an organism first become intelligent? > Do we then assume that a qualitatively different faculty was introduced? If so, > how? These sorts of questions seem to be the result of over-reductionism, of > separating gradations into artificial categories. (Of course, being a > palaeontologist, I spend much of my time doing just that, but never mind!) Some interesting thoughts here. Actually I don't think we disagree at all! I also think that one has to look at the system in question and look at the information processing capabilities. E.g. an ants nest could be found to be conscious... So, I am not saying that only certain programs are conscious and others not. I am really saying that if you the universe is running (in some approximation) a certain program in my head. That program defines me. If you run that program on a computer, that computer would have my consciousness, i.e. that computer would be me. Since most members of this list (except for Russell?) believe that our universe itself a program, you could say that in some sense it is conscious. Most of us think, however, that our universe's program is very simple. A retarded amoeba would probably be more intelligent. Now, one of the reason why I introduced these ''personal programs'' is that one needs an objective way to tell who is who. I will write more about this (in particular about how to resolve the quantum suicide problem) when I have more time (probably in a few weeks from now). Saibal