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
> don't
> 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
> doing
> the  re-intrepreting.

OK, but then you have the situation whereby a very complex, and to our mind 
disorganised, conscious 
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?

Stathis Papaioannou

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