# Re: computationalism and supervenience

```Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>
>
>>>I don't have a clear idea in my mind of disembodied computation except in
>>>rather simple cases,
>>>like numbers and arithmetic. The number 5 exists as a Platonic ideal, and it
>>>can also be implemented
>>>so we can interact with it, as when there is a collection of 5 oranges, or 3
>>>oranges and 2 apples,
>>>or 3 pairs of oranges and 2 triplets of apples, and so on, in infinite
>>>variety. The difficulty is that if we
>>>say that "3+2=5" as exemplified by 3 oranges and 2 apples is conscious, then
>>>should we also say
>>>that the pairs+triplets of fruit are also conscious? If so, where do we draw
>>>the line?
>>
>>I'm not sure I understand your example.  Are you saying that by simply
>>existing, two
>>apples and 3 oranges compute 2+3=5?  If so I would disagree.  I would say it
>>is our
>>comprehending them as individual objects and also as a set that is the
>>computation.
>>Just hanging there on the trees they may be "computing" apple hanging on a
>>tree,
>>apple hanging on a tree,... but they're not computing 2+3=5.
>
>
> What about my example in an earlier post of beads on an abacus? You can slide
> 2 beads to the left, then another
> 3 beads to the left, and count a total of 5 beads; or 2 pairs of beads and 3
> pairs of beads and count a total of 5
> pairs of beads, or any other variation. Perhaps it seems a silly example when
> discussing consciousness, but the most
> elaborate (and putatively conscious) computation can be reduced to a complex
> bead-sliding exercise. And if sliding
> beads computes 2+3=5, why not if 2 birds and then 3 birds happen to land on a
> tree, or a flock of birds of which 2
> are red lands on one tree and another flock of birds of which 3 are red lands
> on an adjacent tree? It is true that these
> birds and beads are not of much consequence computationally unless someone is
> there to observe them and interpret
> them, but what about the computer that is conscious chug-chugging away all on
> its own? ```
```
No it's not a silly example; it's just that it seems that you are hypothesizing
that
I am providing the computation by seeing the apples as a pair, by seeing the
a triple and a pair and then as a quintuple.  Above, this exchange began with
you
posing this as an example of a disembodied computation - but then the examples
seem
to depend on some (embodied) person witnessing them in order that the *be*
computations.  I guess I'm not convinced that it makes sense to say that
anything can
be a computation; other than in the trivial sense that it's a "simulation" of
itself.
I agree that there is a mapping to a computation - but in most cases the
mapping is
such that it seems more reasonable to say the computation is in the application
of
the mapping.  And I dont' mean  that the mapping is complex - a mapping from my
brain
states to yours would no doubt be very complex.  I think the characteristic
that
would allow us to say the thinking was not in the mapping is something like
whether
it was static (like a look-up table) and not to large in some sense.

>
>>>That is what I mean
>>>when I say that any computation can map onto any physical system.
>>
>>But as you've noted before the computation is almost all in the mapping.  And
>>not
>>just in the map, but in the application of the map - which is something we
>>do.  That
>>action can't be abstracted away.  You can't just say there's a physical
>>system and
>>there's a manual that would map it into some computation and stop there as
>>though the
>>computation has been done.  The mapping, an action, still needs to be
>>performed.
>
>
> What if the computer is built according to some ridiculously complex plan,
> plugged in, then all the engineers, manuals,
> etc. disappear. If it was conscious to begin with, does it suddenly cease
> being conscious because no-one is able to
> understand it? It could have been designed according to the radioactive decay
> patterns of a sacred stone, in which
> case without the documentation, its internal states might appear completely
> random. With the documentation, it may be
> possible to understand what it is doing or even interact with it, and you
> have said previously that it is the potential for
> interaction that allows it to be conscious, but does that mean it gradually
> becomes less conscious as pages of the manual
> are ripped out one by one and destroyed, even though the computer itself does
> not change its activity as a result?
>
>
>>>The physical structure and activity
>>>of computer A implementing program a may be completely different to that of
>>>computer B implementing
>>>program b, but program b may be an emulation of program a, which should make
>>>the two machines
>>>functionally equivalent and, under computationalism, equivalently conscious.
>>
>>I don't see any problem with supposing that A and B are equally conscious (or
>>unconscious).
>
>
> But there is a mapping under which any machine B is emulating a machine A.

But when is this mapping doing the computing and when is it A or B? It seems
that
there must be an isomorphism between A and B processes at the level of an
algorithm;
otherwise it is the mapping that is doing the computing, as when B is rock and
A is

>Figuring out this mapping does not change the
> physical activity of either A or B. You can argue that therefore the physical
> activity of A or B is irrelevant and consciousness
> is implemented non-corporeally by virtue of its existence as a Platonic
> object; or you can argue that this is clearly nonsense and
> consciousness is implemented as a result of some special physical property of
> a particular machine.

Why not as some special property of the algorithm (or the mapping)?

Brent Meeker

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