Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 
> 
> 
> Brent Meeker writes:
> 
> [Stathis Papaioannou]
> 
>>>>>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.
> 
> 
> [Peter Jones]
> 
>>>>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.
> 
>  
> [Stathis Papaioannou] 
> 
>>>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? 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?
>>
>> >
>>
>>>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 
>>>observer. 
> 
>  
> 
>>But then, as you'v noted before, you can regard the environment+computer as a 
>>bigger 
>>computer with no external interaction.
>>
>>You've used this argument as a reductio absurdum against the idea that a 
>>manuscript 
>>or any arbitrary object has a meaning.  Yet you seem to accept the similar 
>>argument 
>>that any object implements a computation - given the right 
>>"dictionary/interpretation/manual".
> 
> 
> Perhaps I have been inconsistent in my use of terms. What I meant is that any 
> object implements 
> a computation, but in a useless/trivial/meaningless way unless it interacts 
> with an environment or is 
> understood by a conscious observer. But now that I think about it, we can 
> arbitrarily say that the 
> left half of the object is the computer and the right half is the environment 
> with which it interacts - 
> which is again true in a useless/trivial/meaningless way. The answer would 
> seem to be that "meaning" 
> is not a concept that is basic to physics, but exists only in the mind of a 
> conscious observer. That can 
> be an external observer or, if the computer is self-aware, itself. The same 
> could be said of the terms 
> "trivial" and "elegant" applied to mathematical theorems: they are only 
> meaningful to mathematicians, 
> not basic to mathematics.
> 
> [Stathis Papaioannou]
> 
>>>Any
>>>string of characters or any physical process can be seen as implementing a
>>>language or a computation, if you have the right "dictionary". 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
>>> consciousness.
> 
> 
>>Suppose some computation, such as what's happening in your brain, implements 
>>consciousness.  How much could it be changed and still be conscious?  Could 
>>we slice 
>>it up into segments and rearrange them?  How long a segment?  Is there 
>>"something it 
>>is like" to be conscious and insane?  I think if we can answer this and then 
>>limit 
>>our discussion to sane consciousness then some of these theoretical 
>>possibilities go 
>>away.
> 
> 
> If every computation is implemented everywhere anyway, this is equivalent to 
> the situation where every 
> computation exists as a platonic object, or every computation exists 
> implemented on some computer or 
> brain in a material multiverse. This gives rise to the issues of quantum 
> immortality and the white rabbit 
> problem, as discussed at great length in the past on this list.
> 
> One way to discredit all this foolishness is to abandon computationalism...

I don't see how assuming consciousness is non-computational solves any of these 
conundrums about every object implementing every possible computation.  ISTM 
that 
it's acceptable to say an object implements a computation - a rock "computes" 
what a 
rock does in repsonse to "input", i.e. it's interaction with the environment.  
The 
problem arises when we suppose there are "meanings" tha can be associated  with 
this 
(thru dictionaries or manuals) so that it is computing something with a 
"meaning". 
If we say that "meaning" is something we make up, and it is never in the 
objects 
outside our heads, not in computers and not in manuals; then the problem 
disappears.

Brent Meeker

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