Pete writes > But isn't the use of time as the dimension along which things vary > (or are 'processed') a somewhat arbitrary choice? > > I've wrote to the list before about a "Game of Life" simulation in > which, instead of running the states of the automaton forward in > time, erasing the previous state with the subsequent state, you > simply place the subsequent state >on top< of the previous state > (i.e., you have black disks for "live" cells, and white disks for > "dead" cells, and you pile them up as you go..). If the automaton > includes an SAS, would you say its experiences are instantiated only > at the moment of laying down the disks, or are they instantiated > permanently? > > Here the state of the system varies with the Z coordinate, rather > than the time coordinate - but is this relevant? And if so, why?
My answer is: because the layers in your stack of Life states are not connected causally. There is no information flow. (I realize that by those phrases I am begging the question of "why". In fact, it is still one of the most amazing and perplexing questions I know of.) But it is *precisely* that I cannot imagine how this stack of Life gels could possibly be thinking or be conscious that forces me to admit that something like time must play a role. Here is why: let's suppose that your stack of Life boards does represent each generation of Conway's Life as it emulates a person. (That Conway's Life can compute anything was discovered more than 25 years ago; one may think of it as just a computer program, but with an especially appealing visual format in which each state is perfectly apparent.) If a stack of gels like this amounts to the conscious experience of an entity, then it certainly wouldn't hurt to move them farther apart. So, whereas you may be visualizing them less than an inch apart, we may move them without affecting anything to lightyears apart. Next, we alter the orientations of the gels randomly. Finally, we see that no particular gel needs to be physically continuous with itself---cutting them in half and dispersing them among the galaxies changes nothing. In fact, just what kind of changes could the stack suffer and *not* be conscious? (If one buys into Wei Dai's or other descriptions of how Universal Dovetailers or other devices (timeless or not) implement actual universes, then it can be argued that separating the gels like this cuts down on the measure of the OMs they're emulating. It's very much as though the effort required to located the scattered gels (or scattered atoms making up the gels) contributes to them being less "manifest" in some way. But I didn't think that you were going there.) So, for me, since it is absurd to think that either vibrating bits of matter (an example Hal Finney quotes) or random patches of dust (Greg Egan's theory of Dust) can actually give runtime to entities, then I have to draw the line somewhere. Where I have always chosen is this: if states, no matter now represented, are not causally connected with each other, consciousness does not obtain. Lee