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.
. . .
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.
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