Stathis Papaioannou writes: > (c) A random string of binary code is run on a computer. There exists a > programming language which, when a program is written in this language so > that it is the same program as in (a) and (b), then compiled, the binary > code so produced is the same as this random string.
I don't know what you mean by "random" in this context. If you mean a string selected at random from among all strings of a certain length, the chance that it will turn out to be the same program functionally is so low as to be not worth considering. But ignoring that, here is how I approach the more general problem of whether a given string creates or instantiates a given observer. I made a long posting on this a few weeks ago. In my opinion it follows simply from assuming the Universal Distribution (UD). In this model, all information objects are governed by this probability distribution, the UD. One way to think of it is to imagine all possible programs being run; then the fraction of programs which instantiate a given information object is that object's measure. So to solve the problem of whether your program instantiates an observer is a two step process. First write down a description of the information pattern that equals that observer. More specifically, write the description of the information pattern that defines that observer experiencing the particular moments of consciousness that you want to know if your program is instantiating. Doing this will require a much stronger and more detailed theory of conciousness than we now possess, but I don't think there is any inherent obstacle that will keep us from gaining this ability. The second step is to consider your program's output and see if it is reasonably similar to the information pattern you just defined. The simplest case is where the output is identical. Then you can say that the program does instantiate that consciousness. However it could be that the program basically creates the same pattern but it is represented somewhat differently. How can we consider all possible alternate ways of representing an information pattern and still let them count, without opening the door so wide that all patterns count? The solution follows rigorously from the definition of the UD. We append a second interpretation program to the first one, the one which ran the putative conscious program. This second program turns the output from the first one into the canonical form we used to define the conscious information pattern. The concatenation of the two programs then outputs the pattern in canonical form and we can recognize it. The key point now is that the contribution to the measure of the observer moments being simulated is, by the definition of the Universal Distribution, based on the size of the program which outputs the information pattern in question. And the size of that program will be the size of its two component parts: the first one, that you were wondering about, which may have generated a consciousness; and the second one, which took the output of the first one and turned it into the canonical form which matched the OM pattern in question. In other words, the contribution which this program makes to the measure of a given observer's experience will be based on the size of the program (smaller is better) and on the size of the interpretation program which turns the output of the first program into canonical form (again, smaller is better). Obviously a sufficiently large interpretation program can turn any output into what we want. The question is whether a small one can do the trick. That is what tells us that the pattern is really there and not something which we are forcing by our interpretation. Standard considerations of the UD imply that the exact nature of the canonical form used is immaterial, however it does matter how precisely you need to specify the information pattern that truly does represent a set of conscious observer moments. That second question is a matter of psychology and as we improve our understanding of consciousness we will have a better handle on it. Once we do, this approach will provide an in-principle technique to calculate how much contribution to measure any given program string makes to any given conscious experience. Most importantly, this follows entirely from the assumption of the Universal Distribution. No other assumptions are needed. It is a simple assumption yet it provides a very specific process and rule to answer this kind of question. Hal Finney