Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Peter Jones writes:
> > Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > > Peter Jones writes:
> > >
> > > > The requirement that computations require counterfactuals isn't
> > > > ad hoc, it comes from the observation that computer programmes
> > > > include if-then statements.
> > > >
> > > > The idea that everyting is conscious unless there is a good
> > > > reason it isn't -- *that* is ad hoc!
> > >
> > > No, it follows from the idea that anything can be a computation. I think
> > > this is trivially obvious,
> > > like saying any string of apparently random characters is a translation
> > > of any English sentence
> > > of similar or shorter length, and if you have the correct dictionary, you
> > > can find out what that
> > > English sentence is.
> > But that is actually quite a dubious idea. For one thing there
> > is an objective basis for claiming that one meaning is the
> > "real" meaning, and that is the meaning intended by the writer.
> There might have been a particular meaning intended by the writer, but
> remember materialism: all
> you have really is ink on paper, and neither the ink nor the paper knows
> anything about where it
> came from or what it means. Suppose a stream of gibberish is created today by
> the proverbial
> monkeys typing away randomly, and just by chance it turns out that this makes
> sense as a novel in
> a language that will be used one thousand years from now. Is it correct to
> say that the monkeys'
> manuscript has a certain meaning today?
If the "intention" criterion is correct it doesn't.
What is your point ?
> Or is it meaningless today, but meaningful in a thousand
> years? If the latter, does it suddenly become meaningful when the new
> language is defined, or when
> someone who understands the new language actually reads it? What if the
> manuscript never comes
> to light, or if it comes to light and is read but after another thousand
> years every trace of the language
> has disappeared?
If it was created intentionally, it had a menaing. The fact that the
can become lost does not affect that.
> I don't think it makes sense to say that the manuscript has intrinsic
> meaning; rather, it has meaning in
> the mind of an observer. Similarly, with a computation implemented on a
> computer, I don't think it makes
> sense to say that it has meaning except in its interaction with the
> environment or in the mind of an
Why should computations have meaning at all ?
Maybe the criteria for something being a computation
are different fromt he criteria for something being a written message.
> Any string of characters or any physical process can be seen as implementing
> a language or
> a computation, if you have the right "dictionary".
Not by the intentionallity criterion.
> There is a very interesting special case of this if we
> allow that some computations can be self-aware, in the absence of any
> environmental interaction or
> external observer: by definition, they are their own observer and thus they
> bootstrap themselves into
Assuming that computation requires interpretation. Maybe it doesn't.
> > For another, your translations would have to be complex
> > and arbitrary, which goes against the ususal modus operandi
> > of seeking simple and consistent explanations.
> It may be inefficient, but that does not mean it is invalid.
It *is* invalid by the standards of physical science.
> > > This is analogous to finding an alien computer which, when power is
> > > applied,
> > > is set into motion like an inscrutable Rube Goldberg machine. If you get
> > > your hands on the
> > > computer manual, you might be able to decipher the machine's activity as
> > > calculating pi.
> > You might not need the manual. Numbers don't
> > have arbitrary semantics in the same way words do.
> > That's why SETI uses mathematical transmissions.
> Mathematical truths are eternal and observer-independent, but mathematical
> notation certainly is not.
> SETI assumes that there will likely be greater similarities in how different
> species express mathematical
> statements than in their non-mathematical communication.
Something that would only be possible if maths did not have
the same arbitrary semantics as natural language.
> There is nothing to stop the aliens using a
> mathematical notation that varies according to the moods of their emperor or
> something, making their
> broadcasts of mathematical theorems seem completely random to us.
If they understood the nature of mathematics, they would
realise that their approach *is* arbitrary.
> Maybe that's why we haven't
> recognised them yet.
> > It is also something Everythingist arguments rely on.
> > You can't exist as a computation in a numbers-only universe
> > if computations require external interpretation.
> The computation is a mathematical object that exists in Platonia. The
> implementation of a computation on
> a physical computer so that we can observe it is something else. It is like
> the difference between the
> number 3 and a collection of 3 oranges.
Do computations require intpretation or don't they ? You seem to
have come down on both sides of the question.
> > > Moreover,
> > > you might be able to reach inside and shift a few gears or discharge a
> > > few capacitors and make it
> > > calculate e instead, utilising the fact that the laws of physics
> > > determine that if the inputs change,
> > > the outputs will change (which, I trust you will agree, is the actual
> > > physical basis of the if-then
> > > statements).
> > > Now, in human languages as in machine design, there are certain
> > > regularities to make things
> > > easier for user. It might be possible, albeit difficult, to decipher a
> > > foreign language or figure out
> > > what an alien computer is computing by looking for these regularities.
> > > However, it is not necessary
> > > that there be any pattern at all: the characters in the unknown language
> > > may change in meaning
> > > every time they appear in the string in accordance with a random number
> > > generator, a cryptographic
> > > method called a "one-time pad". Similarly, the meaning of the physical
> > > states of the alien computer
> > > could change with each clock cycle according to some random number
> > > sequence, so that if you had
> > > the key you could figure out that the computer was calculating pi, but if
> > > you did not its activity would
> > > seem random.
> > Assuming that computational states have an external semantics like
> > words.
> Of course they do. Does Intel or Microsoft follow some universal rule of
> computer design?
What has that got to do with anything ? If computation
has no external semantics then there are not Intel
semantics or microsoft semantics.
> Any computer
> can be emulated on a UTM, but that doesn't mean the computer can't be based
> on otrageously bizarre
> and unpredictable rules, inscrutable to anyone not in the know.
*That* doesn't mean that implementing a computation
in an uneccearily complicated way turns it inot
a different computation.
1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 is just a complicated
way of writing 17, not some completely different number.
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