----- Original Message ----- From: "Lee Corbin" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2005 5:51 PM
Subject: RE: Everything Physical is Based on Consciousness
The perpetual question I have (about the epiphenomena problem that any form of Idealism has), regarding this notion of a Platonic Reality, is that IF all possible Forms of existence *exist* a priori - "from the beginning" - what necessitates any form of 1st person experience of a world that "evolves", has an irreversible arrow of time, etc?
Prigogine used to declaim on this a lot. I think that the answer that many people like to give---and which has caused me no end of headaches---is that if we regard time as just a dimension like the others, then we can conceive everything as a block universe (as we have all discussed a lot here already).
I have read every I could find by Prigogine many years ago. It was his idea that lead me to wonder if Being were merely the "fixed point" of Becoming... But that is metaphysics... ;-)
[LC] I'm assuming that your question isn't just rhetorical. I have to admit "they" have a strong argument. Probably Calvin in Geneva made the same argument before them. Even Vonnegut talked about our actions being frozen in amber, as it were. And Balfour has explained it rather well: our *sense* time passing is a sort of illusion, and all that really is is a set of adjacent configurations. But, alas, I am saying nothing new here: we've all reiterated these ideas.
I have no problem with the idea of block universes in principle, in fact, the idea of a "history" makes perfect sense in these terms. I had mentioned something previously about light cones and closed universes considered from the point of view of being it the Present and looking out toward the Big Bang event horizon. Each observer, in this sense has a "block universe" of their own. One thing that we can claim to be unassailable is that any kind of "observer" that we can imagine will always have some notion of an object of their observations. It seems to me that the converse is also equally unassailable. If there exists something that is observable, then there must exist some observer that has such as an object. But the problems start when we take this idea that abstract it to the point where the observer is some abstract notion of a "god-like" point of view; that somehow it is possible for an observer to exist that is the ideal voyeur that can somehow perceive all and yet not is affected by this act of observation. One thing we seem to all agree upon is that the act of observation involves some kind of creation of a persistent imprint of the act, something that can be used to communicate the result of the observation, be it a crystallization of silver in a photographic plate or the creation of a connection between neurons. Are we going to somehow abstract away this and get away with it? I do not think so!
[SPK]It seems to me that Plato's Ideal is the ultimate case of a system in thermodynamic equilibrium, and as such exhibits no change of any kind, per definition. What then is the origin of, at least, the illusion of change? How can Becoming derive from pure Being?[LC] :-) Yes, one of the titles of Prigogine's books was "From Being to Becoming".
[SPK]Why is it necessary that I cannot remember the future equally well as I can remember the past, assuming that I have not experienced a blow to the head or oxygen deprivation?[LC] Of course, if we turn to the natural world for explanations, and specifically, turn to evolution, then this question amounts to "why are records made of the past and not the future?". I don't know of a very good answer. Perhaps Huw Price and others in the end say, "It's because the direction indicated by records is what we call the past---traces of influence---and the other direction, the direction where entropy increases, is what we call the future." But I would not be too surprised if a better answer somehow obtains.
I have some ideas about this but it will take a some time to explain them. One thing for sure is that this "arrow of time"
[SPK]Just because all possible TMs *could* get some measure of runtime, since we are assuming from the beginning that there exists some form of hardware, does not mean that they can all be implemented. The most notorious case are TMs that ask the question "Do I halt?"...[LC] When you write "does not mean that they *can* all be implemented", I'm not sure what you mean by can. Perhaps you mean only what the follow-up sentence implies. Now I would say that as usual we need to distinguish between TMs considered as abstract sets of quadruples (or quintuples in some expositions), and an idealized little machine that runs around on wheels.
The word "can" is used in the same sense as "it is not inconsistent that ...". But the mere a priori possibility that a TM can be implemented has nothing to do with whether or not is "actually" is implemented. As we have discussed previously, there is a difference between an "idealized little machine" and a real "little machine that runs around on wheels" in that the first is at best the title of a emulation program that we could run on our favorite VR player that would be indistinguishable from some imagination of a "little machine that runs around on wheels".
The difference is that we can chose to turn off the VR machine, think of something else, or whatever equivalent action in the "idealized" case but in the "Real" case we have to shell out hard cash to buy the thing and when it gets crushed underfoot, we have to sweep it up and dispose of the remains properly. ;-)
Basically, the "real" object is one that we can not "turn off" without doing something to our ability to observe it. I am reminded of how little children will cover their own eyes with their hand and claim: "You can't see me!"
[LC] But in either case, whether it eventually halts or whether it just spins its wheels, I would guess that they all can be implemented. Why not, exactly? After all, you just start the thing. If it wants to ask questions (that we know it cannot answer), it will just go ahead.
Have you read D. Deutsch's paper where he discusses the relationship between physics and computations?
We need to be very careful that we are not assuming infinite resources for our TMs to run on, the computationalist equivalent of a Perpetual Motion Machine.
Well, but won't it be retorted by them that wherever Universal Reality Generators are built (in the multiverse), and wherever there is the right kind of controlled big crunch, then indeed some algorithms will run longer than any finite time?
To recap my answer to "them", I suggest that all really long and really grotesque and exotic TMs just won't get much runtime across the multiverse. That is, for any TM of N states and that writes out in M states as many 1s and 0s as is possible for a Busy Beaver to do, there will be a M with 10^10^10^10^10 times as many states and a vastly vastly greater non-computable function of amount of writing done in that number of states. And these really exotic and lengthy TMs just will receive a negligible amount of runtime.
One thing about this line of thinking is that it tacitly assumes implementation and only looks at the number of irreducible steps that the computation must incur. It is easy to show that even infinitely slow physical systems can implement computations, as long as we have eternities to stand around a wait for the output. It seems that I have been misunderstanding this notion of runtime. Are we considering computations to be like numbers laid out side by side and determining which is longer than another? Does this not tacitly assume some kind of transformation or whatever that lets us abstractly butt them up against each other, much like how I would determine that some piece of wood has a length equal to some amount defined by gradulations on my tape measure.
[LC] Well, like I say, they don't need to invoke Platonia to get away with some infinities. But how might we be elevating our notion of "being able to peek into the world from the outside" into a postulate? As for me, I'm incurably wed to assuming a 3rd person viewpoint even when no such person can truly exist---and so do you mean like me?
So long as we understand that such 3rd person view points are abstracted from our 1st person viewpoints that is fine and dandy. ;-) It is when we assume that we can somehow obtain certainty of a 1st person viewpoint from a 3rd that obvious problems follow. We have as an example the idea of examining the hardware of a computer, even down to the atomic level, all of the circuits on the mother board, the CPU, etc., do we obtain some certainty of its software aspect unless we plug a monitor to it or some other Input/Output interface? We would be hard pressed!
> [LC] >> There are a lot of ammonia molecules inside Saturn, and they >> are indubitably physical. Can you explain at all how it is >> even a bit reasonable to claim that they depend on (or are >> based on) consciousness?
I believe that Greg Egan, in one of his wonderful novels, discussed the idea that even molecules, bouncing in their Brownian dance, are implementing algorithms, algorithms that might just code for simulations of entities just like us. How could we ever interface with them such that we could get answers?[LC] Well, thanks for explaining a meaning to what Greg Egan wrote that eluded me. Well, I have no idea how we could interface with them. So why is interrogating them or interfacing with them important?
Because we can only have some meaningful measure of certainty that there is "someone home" if we can ask questions, like in the Turing Test. Some form of interface must be possible.
[LC] It may be that these bouncing molecules happen to spell out my whole life in detail. But surely that can't happen much, can it? (I confess this is all new to me.)
If the it is a difference that makes no difference...?