Peter Jones writes:
> And such a universe could be emulated
> as a running, deterministic process. But
> that won't get you into Plato's heaven,
> because it is a *running* process -- it is still
> dynamic. A recording of the process could
> exist in Plato's heaven, but it wouldn't have
> all the counterfactuals, so the computationalist
> is not required to believe that it contains
> any real sentience -- the simulated
> beings in it would have no more
> consciousness of their own than the characters in a movie!
> Likewise, the computationalist is not
> to believe that an unexecuted programme is sentient
> (even though it has, theoretically, the counterfactuals).
> No-one would believe that a brain-scan, however detailed,
> is conscious, so not computationalist, however ardent,
> is required to believe that a progamme gathering udston a shelf
> is sentient, however good a piece of AI code it is.
Leave aside for the moment the computer running in Platonia and consider a real
computer. You say that a computer program is defined in part by its ability to
handle counterfactuals, distinguishing it from a mere recording, but it is this
distinction with which I have difficulties. The characters in a film are not
conscious because the film only simulates external appearance, not because it
lacks if-then statements. A film obviously does handle if-then statements,
because if the patterns on the film are different the projection on the screen
would also be different. A computer program basically does the same thing: it
consistently produces a certain output for a certain input. In the MWI of QM a
computer program or human mind may have more luxuriant branchings than a
recording, but that is just a matter of degree, and in any case there is no
reason to suppose that a program is any less valid or less conscious because of
the presence or absence of near-copies segregated in parallel universes. In the
CI of QM it would be possible to introduce true randomness into a computer
program but the same could be done for a recording, and again there is no
reason to suppose that a program is any less valid or less conscious because it
isn't random. Randomness and/or parallel processes are not a prerequisite for a
classical computer to function.
You might say that a computer program has a two-way interaction with its
environment while a recording does not, but it is easy to imagine a situation
where this can be perfectly reproduced by a recording. In run no. 1, you start
up the computer program and have a conversation with it. In run no. 2 you start
up the computer program and play it the recording of your voice from run no. 1.
As far as the program is aware, it receives exactly the same inputs and goes
through exactly the same responses on both runs, but one is a recording and the
other is not. Run no. 2 is exactly analogous to a film: a fixed input resulting
in a fixed output, even though if the input had been different the output would
also have been different. I don't see how you could say that the computer is
conscious in run no. 1 but not in run no. 2.
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