Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>> Brent meeker writes:
>>>> That is not clear to me.  Perhaps it turns on the meaning of 
>>>> "content" in an OM.  Generally if my OM's are taken to be on
>>>> the order of a second or longer, I think the order could be 
>>>> reconstructed from the content.  But I also think there would
>>>> be exceptions.  For example if I'm startled by a loud noise
>>>> this switches my consciousness on a time scale much shorter
>>>> than 1sec to "What was that!?" and then, deciding it was not
>>>> important, I switch back to what I was thinking of before.
>>>> These thoughts are connected by *memory* but not by conscious
>>>> content of OMs.  Maybe there is a feeling of continuity in
>>>> consciousness which doesn't survive chopping it up into OMs,
>>>> i.e. each conscious thought has duration and overlaps preceding
>>>> and suceding thoughts.  But I think that either some such
>>>> overlap or access to memory must be invoked to ensure that OMs
>>>> can be ordered.
>>> We can distinguish between memory that actually is part of my
>>> present conscious experience, such as when I am in the process of
>>> recalling what I did yesterday, and memory that lies in waiting
>>> and available for access should the need arise, such as just
>>> before I decided to recall what I did yesterday. I would class
>>> the latter kind of memory along with the rest of the machinery
>>> required to generate the appropriate observer moments to give the
>>> experience of a coherent stream of consciousness. If all this
>>> machinery were dispensed with, and the OM's were generated
>>> magically just as if the underlying stored memories etc. were
>>> still operational, no difference in the stream of consciousness
>>> could occur.
>>> Pushing the idea to its limit, not only is it unnecessary for 
>>> anything external to the OM's to bind them together, it is 
>>> unnecessary for other OM's, past or future, to even exist. I
>>> would still feel I have a past and expect I will survive into the
>>> future if my entire lifespan is just one second long and all my
>>> memories false. My hope that "I" will survive amounts to a hope
>>> that somewhere, sometime, there will be an OM with appropriate
>>> memories and a sense that he was and remains me. If such an OM
>>> does exist, it will consider itself my successor regardless of
>>> whether I ever actually existed.
>>> Stathis Papaioannou
>> That is not so clear to me as it seems to be to you.
>> Suppose that being conscious is something a brain does.  Then a
>> Observer-second would be one second of that brain activity.  When
>> this OS was magically initiated it would already include potentials
>> traveling down axons, etc, the residue of the previous OS and the
>> precursors of later milliseconds in this OS.  But those underlying
>> physical processes are not what we generally think of as conscious.
>> They are not things we would report if asked what we are thinking.
>> Nevertheless they may be necessary for the continuity of
>> consciousness, where consciousness here means the inner narrative -
>> the story I tell myself in my head.  In these thought experiments
>> about OMs there seem to be two contrary implicit assumptions:
>> (1) that just the content of the inner narrative constitutes
>> consciousness, as in the analogy of cutting up a book and then
>> reconstructing it's order from the content of the segments,
>> (2) the feeling of continuity remains in a segment 1sec or 0.1sec
>> or 0.01sec even if that is too short a segment to allow
>> reconstruction of the order from the content.
> I suppose you could say that there is no feeling of continuity from
> one microsecond to the next in a normally functioning brain either,
> because it takes many microseconds to make a thought. My point is
> that whatever it takes to make a thought and however vague the
> distinction between one thought and the next is, arbitrarily slicing
> up the physical activity underlying consciousness should not make a
> difference to the sense of continuity, 

But that's exactly the point I find dubious.  Continuity in mathematics always 
involves taking infinite limits in sets that are already ordered (Dedekind cuts 
for example).  And per all our best theories, the universe is instantiates 
continuous processes in a continuous spacetime.  Though there have been many 
attempts, no one has shown with mathematical rigor how a continuous spacetime 
can emerge as an approximation of a discrete one.  Physicists mostly think it 
is true, but mathematicians think they're hand waving.  The difficulties of 
numerically solving partial differential equations in computers don't give much 

We use the instantaneous states as in the solution of differential equations, 
but those generally include the values of derivatives and hence implicitly a 
time variation.

>and no explicit ordering is
> necessary. The counting sequence "one, two, three" may involve
> millions of slices of brain activity or computer emulation activity
> spread throughout space and time, and it may take many of these
> slices to form a moment of consciousness just as it takes many
> milliseconds of normal brain activity to form a moment of
> consciousness, but the feeling of continuity should be preserved.

It's the "should" that worries me. If consciousness is just some digital 
information process that can exist in Platonia, then the underlying continuity 
of brain processes is irrelevant.  But the relevance of brain processes is the 
point in question.  When it is assumed that the conscious thought is not 
affected by slicing up the physical process, I'm concerned that we are 
implicitly assuming what was to be proved.

Brent Meeker

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