On 28 Jan 2005 Hal Finney wrote:


Here's how I look at the question of whether a bit string, if accidentally
implemented as part of another program, would be conscious.
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I would approach this from the Schmidhuber perspective that all programs
exist and run, in a Platonic sense, and this creates all computable
universes.  Some programs create universes like ours, which have
conscious entities.  Other programs create random universes, which may,
through sheer outlandish luck, instantiate patterns which match those
of conscious entities.

All consciousnesses exist in this model, and as Bruno emphasizes, from
the inside there is no way to know which program instantiated you.
In fact this may not even be a meaningful question.  But what are
meaningful to ask, in the Schmidhuber sense, are two things.  First,
what is the measure of your consciousness: how likely are you to exist?
And second, among all of the instantiations of your consciousness in all
the universes, how much of your measure does each one contribute?

All well so far.

I suggest that the answer is that accidental instantiations only
contribute an infinitesimal amount, compared to the contributions of
universes like ours.  Our universe appears to have extremely simple
physical laws and initial conditions.  Yet it formed complex matter and
chemistry which allowed life to evolve and consciousness to develop.
Maybe we got some lucky breaks; the universe doesn't seem particularly
fecund as far as we can tell, but conscious life did happen.  The odds
against it were not, as in the case of accidental instantiation, an
exponential of an astronomical number.  This means that the contribution
to a consciousness from a lawful universe like the one we observe
is almost infinitely greater than the contribution from accidental
instantiations.

I don't understand this conclusion. A lengthy piece of code (whether it represents a moment of consciousness or anything else) is certainly less likely to be accidentally implemented on some random computer than on the computer running the original software. But surely the opposite is the case if you allow that all possible computer programs "run" simply by virtue of their existence as mathematical objects. For every program running on a biological or electronic computer, there must be infinitely many exact analogues and every minor and major variation thereof running out there in Platonia.


--Stathis Papaioannou

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