Hi George,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2006 12:22 AM
Subject: Re: Symmetry, Invarance and Conservation

Hi Stephen

Stephen Paul King wrote:
Dear George,
    Could it be that Consciousness is more related and identifiable with the "processing" of Information than with Information itself?
I agree that consciousness is not just information. As you say, consciousness seems to be associated with processing of information. However, even "processing of information" is not sufficient. For example a computer processes information but is not conscious. There is also a need for self referentiality.
    Are you at all familiar with the work of Peter Wegner where self-reference is built into his notion of "interactive computations" by the use of Non-Well Founded Set theory (ala Jon Barwise et al)?

Consider the example often raised (I do not know the original source) of a Book that contained a "complete description" of Einstein's Brain. It was claimed that this book was in fact equivalent to Einstein himself even to the degree that one could "have a conversation with Einstein" by referencing the book. (Never mind the fact that QM's non-cummutativity of canonical conjugate observables make it impossible for *any* classical object to be completely specified in a way that is independent of observational frame, but I digress...)
I am questioning the idea that there can be a book containing a "complete description" of Einstein's Brain that can be "read" independently of your frame of reference. Is the book containing a snapshot of the brain at a particular microsecond in Einstein's life? In this case I doubt whether this book can be called conscious.
    I agree. My question was somewhat but not completely rhetorical as it is (or should be obvious) that a complete description of Einstein's Brain or any other physical object is, at best, a pipedream. Nevertheless, this idea that there is somehow an identity or equivalence between a "complete description" of an object and said object itself that is directly implied by the contemporaty Ai school (ala Dennet, Churchland, etc.)
    It it hard for me, as a student of philosophy, to bring myself to even consider any discusion or theory that has this nonsense as its basic tacit premise. Something has to give!
Or is it a video book containing the whole life history of Einstein's brain? In which case,  you'll have trouble "reading" the book unless you change your frame of reference. If you push the "play" button on the video player all you will see is a movie of Einstein brain INTERACTING WITH ITS ENVIRONMENT  - NOT YOUR ENVIRONMENT. (This is like a hologram. Did you know that an object seen in a hologram casts a shadow in the environment where the hologram is created but not in the viewing environment?)  Changing your frame of reference to Einstein's environment would be extremely difficult - you'll need a time machine.
    Interesting, we are straying into FoR list territory! I seem to recall that D. Deutsch poists out that "other times are other universes" and that "travel" by what ever means between such is severly constrained to only that which can be subsummed under the umbra of quantum enteglement.
    We seem to, again, stray into ideas and assumptions that simply do not hold up under strutiny! 
The only "practical?" way to get a good rendition of Einstein's brain THAT INTERACTS WITH YOUR ENVIRONMENT  is to simulate it on a computer. Then you can call it conscious.
    Ok, but what about the nature of this "simulation" as a computational algorithm? How do we obey the definitions of Universal Turing Machines while considering interactive systems that under most reasonable conditions will run into situations that never occured to the person that wrote said algorithm. I am reminded of the difficulty of this when I watched a news report about a race that was held between robotic vehicles...
    It is not important to note that the winner of said race:
"Stanley got that smart by learning during countless hours of desert testing in the months leading up to the race. Equipped with a wide variety of sensors and a heap of custom-written software including machine learning algorithms, Stanley grew smarter with practice. Eventually it became a master of finding the path, detecting obstacles and avoiding them while staying on course."
    This is hardly compatible with UTMs as a UTM's algorithm must be definable "prior" to the running of the computation itself. In this case of interactive computation, there is a huge transformation that takes place, a transformation that we usually call "learning".
    So, to get back to the point, it is hardly a win for the idea of a priori existing algorithms to claim that some how *all* of the content of a 1st person can be faithfully mapped to some bit string in Platonia. It takes something more than mere existence for 1st Person content to occur...
    Could it be that the "hard Problem" of consciousness follows inevitably from our hard-headed insistence that the Universe is Classical ("object have definite properties in themselves") in spite of the massive pile of unassailable evidence otherwise? If we treat Consciousness as "what a quantum computer (brain!) does", i.e. process qubits, instead of a classical object, maybe, just maybe we might find the "problem" not to be so intractably "hard" after all! ;-)
You remind me of Penrose with whom I disagree. Using the quantum computer paradigm is like shoving the mind-body and consciousness problem under the quantum carpet. We must first get a good understanding of self referential systems, classical or quantum. Bruno seems to be on the right track but I think we are still waiting for the linkage between diagonalization and self referentiality and consciousness... (forgive me if I have missed something in his argument)
    Is it possible to agree with some aspects of Penrose's claims and arguments without having to be tared witht the same broad brush?  Since we have come to the conclusion (being hopeful!) that physical objects can not have the purely classical "apriori" definiteness of properties to the sharp degree that a UTM seems to require (at least in principle), so why is it that we continue to ignore the fact that this line of reason leads inevitably to the conclusion that we must treat any object, including the brain, as quantum mechanical?
    If an object is quantum mechanical and is said to do computing, why do we work so hard to not see these two aspects as distinct and unrelated? To say nothing of Bruno's goal of deriving non-comutative QM from sophisticaled variations on classical logics...But I digree. Please take a look at Wegner's papers and see if you think he is on the right track.

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