Peter Jones writes:
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > Peter Jones writes:
> > > > That's what I'm saying, but I certainly don't think everyone agrees
> > > > with me on the list, and
> > > > I'm not completely decided as to which of the three is more absurd:
> > > > every physical system
> > > > implements every conscious computation, no physical system implements
> > > > any conscious
> > > > computation (they are all implemented non-physically in Platonia), or
> > > > the idea that a
> > > > computation can be conscious in the first place.
> > >
> > >
> > > You haven't made it clear why you don't accept that every physical
> > > system
> > > implements one computation, whether it is a
> > > conscious computation or not. I don't see what
> > > contradicts it.
> > Every physical system does implement every computation, in a trivial sense,
> > as every rock
> > is a hammer and a doorstop and contains a bust of Albert Einstein inside it.
> The rock-hammer and the bust of Einstein are mere possibilities. You
> have an argument to the effect that every physical sytem is
> implements every computation. Every physical systesm
> could implelement any computation under suitable re-interpretation,
> but that is a mere possibility unless someone does the re-interpreting,
> in which case it is in fact the system+interpreter combination that is
> the re-intrepreting.
OK, but then you have the situation whereby a very complex, and to our mind
computer might be designed and built by aliens, then discovered by us after the
aliens have become
extinct and their design blueprints, programming manuals and so on have all
been lost. We plug in the
computer (all we can figure out about it is the voltage and current it needs to
run) and it starts whirring
and flashing. Although we have no idea what it's up to when it does this, had
we been the aliens, we
would have been able to determine from observation that it was doing philosophy
or proving mathematical
theorems. The point is, would we now say that it is *not* doing philosophy or
proving mathematical theorems
because there are no aliens to observe it and interpret it?
You might say, the interpretation has still occurred in the initial design,
even though the designers are no
more. But what if exactly the same physical computer had come about by
incredible accident, as a result of
a storm bringing together the appropriate metal, semiconductors, insulators
etc.: if the purposely built computer
were conscious, wouldn't its accidental twin also be conscious?
Finally, reverse the last step: a "computer" is as a matter of fact thrown
together randomly from various
components, but it is like no computer ever designed, and just seems to whir
and flash randomly. Given that there
are no universal laws of computer design that everyone has to follow, isn't it
possible that some bizarre alien
engineer *could* have put this strange machine together, so that its seemingly
random activity to that alien
engineer would have been purposely designed to implement conscious computation?
And if so, is it any more
reasonable to deny that this computer is conscious because its designer has not
yet been born than it is to deny
that the first computer was conscious because its designer has died, or because
it was made accidentally rather
than purposely built in a factory?
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