Brent Meeker writes:

> > You don't have to go as far as saying that *computation* is structural 
> > rather than
> > semantic. You only need to say that *consciousness* is structural, and hence
> > non-computational. That's what some cognitive scientists have done, eg. 
> > Penrose,
> > Searle, Maudlin. Personally, I don't see why there is such a disdain for 
> > the idea
> > that every computation is implemented, including every conscious 
> > computation. The
> > idea is still consistent with all the empirical facts, since we can only 
> > interact
> > with a special subset of computations, implemented on conventional 
> > computers and
> > brains.
> > 
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> Unless you can say what it is about a computation that makes it a unique 
> computation 
> to us and what it is about a computation that makes is conscious, then 
> nothing has 
> been gained.  Clearly it is not true that we can interact only with 
> computations in 
> brains and computers.  We can interact with pool balls and molecules and 
> weather and 
> lots of other things.
> Brent Meeker

The difference between conscious and non-conscious computations is that the 
latter do not need an observer, or an interaction with the environment, to be 
meaningful. Take a very simple physical system like an abacus: you slide 2 
beads to the left, then another 3 beads, count how many beads there are now on 
the left, and the abacus has computed 2+3=5. Next, you look out the window, see 
2 birds land on a wire, then another 3 birds, count a total of 5 birds, and the 
bird-wire system has also computed 2+3=5. Or you observe a flock of birds of 
which 2 are red landing on a tree, and another flock of which 3 are red landing 
on the neighbouring tree, count all the red birds, and that system has now 
computed 2+3=5. Clearly there are countless physical systems everywhere 
computing 2+3=5, but only a small proportion of them are interesting: those 
which are meaningful to an observer. (Whether you say the accidental 
computations are not really worthy of the term "computation", or perhaps should 
be called "potential computations", is a matter of taste, and does not change 
the facts).

Now, suppose some more complex variant of 3+2=3 implemented on your abacus has 
consciousness associated with it, which is just one of the tenets of 
computationalism. Some time later, you are walking in the Amazon rain forest 
and notice that under a certain mapping of birds to beads and trees to wires, 
the forest is implementing the same computation as your abacus was. So if your 
abacus was conscious, and computationalism is true, the tree-bird sytem should 
also be conscious. Moreover, whereas the 2+3=5 computation is only interesting 
if someone observes it, the conscious computation is just as interesting *to 
itself* whether anyone else is able to observe it or not.

Stathis Papaioannou
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