On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 09:32:29PM -0400, Jesse Mazer wrote:
> 
> True, but the same is true of gene-space--there are vastly more sequences of 
> A,T,C,G that would fail to produce anything like a viable multicellular 
> organism (or even a viable single-celled organism) than there are sequences 
> that would. But the theory of evolution implies that any two organisms that 
> have ever existed in the history of earth can be connected by a smooth 
> series of small modifications, with each intermediate being a viable 
> life-form.

Well gradualists would have it this way. But in reality large changes
in genetic code (and correspondng phenotypic changes) do
occur. Nevertheless, it does point to limitations in the analogy.

> 
> Likewise, the space of all coherent novel-length english texts is tiny 
> compared to the space of all novel-length combinations of letters in the 
> Library of Babel, but I think God could probably find a continuous path 
> between any two novels--say, War and Peace and Huck Finn--with each one 
> differing from the last by a one-word substitution, and each one being a 
> coherent novel with no obvious absurdities. The key is that the midpoint 
> wouldn't have to be a weird amalgam of the plots of the two novels, you 
> could go through a long series of distinct plots which are quite different 
> from either of the two endpoints.

Hmm - I'm not so sure, but at least this question could probably be
resolved mathematically in some sense. Anyone want to give it a go?

> 
> >And the
> >conscious states we know of are not fully contiguous either.
> 
> What do you mean? The strength of the synaptic connections between different 
> neurons or groups of neurons does change in a fairly continuous way, no? Of 
> course even if we specify all the synaptic connections and strengths, one's 
> conscious state can change in the short term as different neurons become 
> active, but I don't think this is important to Parfit's thought-experiment, 
> you can imagine a gradual change in the strength and arrangement of synapses 
> even while over the short term there may be more variation in mood and 
> thought processes.
> 
> Jesse
> 

The conscious states we know of are all the examples of human beings
on this Earth. As we well know, these brains are quite distinct from
each other. The debate hinges upon other possible brains
configurations that fill the gaps, and whether these could possibly be
conscious. 

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