On 28 Jan 2005 Brent Meeker wrote:

I'm not sure I understand the computational hyposthesis - and I certainly don't
*believe* it.

So you don't believe that even in principle a digital computer can be conscious? I think the challenge to this is going to come not from theoretical considerations, but from practical developments in AI in the coming decades. There will come a point where to insist that a computer is not conscious will be no more plausible than insisting you alone are conscious.

>(1) This sequence of binary digits has a special organisation, which can be
>understood as conforming to certain rules and relationships in a particular
>programming language;
>(2) Implementing the binary sequence on a digital computer results in a
>simulated world with inhabitants who are self-aware.
>You can stipulate that (1) must be true for (2) to be true, but it does not
>thereby follow that any conscious being in the physical world must be able
>to understand the details of (1) in order for (2) to be true.


>For example,
>suppose the computer language were devised by a long extinct civilization,
>and no-one alive now is able to understand it: should that make any
>difference to the simulation "from inside"?

A good question. Another is, given any bitstring and a certain world, is there
a language in which that bitstring simulates that world?

Yes. This is the basic idea I am getting at. I don't see any way around it.

>Similarly, if the entire
>computation occurs by chance in the course of another computation - a
>spreadsheet, a cryptography cracking program on the planet Zork, distributed
>throughout a computer network in tiny pieces as in the Egan story - how can
>the conscious beings "inside" possibly know this?

This would seem to be contrary to (1) supra - the tiny pieces not longer have
"a special organisation".

No: they always have a special organisation, given the appropriate language, as per your point above.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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