Thanks Bruno.  Much of your terminology at this point escapes me.

I do see that a small part of our differences below are simply due to the 
imprecision of language (and my somewhat sloppy writing.)

I also sense that at the core of much of this discussion is the idea that, although we are 
subjective agents, we do create objective effects within any practical context.  If I intend to 
swat a fly, my sensing of the fly's position is incomplete and contingent and my motor control is 
subject to error, but I act, and the fly is "objectively" dead, within any reasonable 
degree of certainty.  I find that the concept of "context" is essential at all levels and 
extends in the Godelian sense that we are fundamentally limited to operating within a limited but 
expanding context.

Perhaps your terminology states this more elegantly, I can't tell.

Time for me to go do some reading from your site.

- Jef

Bruno Marchal wrote:

Hi Jef,

Please, don't hesitate to skip the remarks you could find a bit too technical, but which could help others who know perhaps a bit more on G and G*, which are theories which I use to tackle many questions in this list. You can come back on those remarks if ever you got time and motivation to do so.

Le 28-déc.-06, à 21:14, Jef Allbright a écrit :

> Bruno Marchal wrote:
>>> Although we all share the illusion of a direct and immediate sense >>> of consciousness, on what basis can you claim that it actually is >>> real? >> Because we cannot doubt it. It is the real message, imo, of >> Descartes "diagonal argument": it is the fixed point of doubt. If we >> decide to doubt everything, we will find ourselves, at some stage, >> doubting we doubt of everything. The same for relativization: we >> cannot relativize everything without an absolute base on which that >> relativization is effective.
> Here is a subtle, and non-traditional thought:
> Classical philosophy always put the Reasoner at the center of the > structure of reasoning. But with our more developed awareness of > evolution, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, it is becoming > clearer that this pure "Copernican" view of reasoning is invalid. We > now can see that every Reasoner is embedded within some a priori > framework such that there is an intrinsic bias or offset to any > subjective construct. When we are aware that there is fundamental > bias, it is clear that one can not validly reason to the point of > doubting everything.

All this makes sense to me. I can interpret your terms in the
(post-godelian) mechanist theory of mind/matter. The "bias" is given by our "body" itself, or our "godel number" or any "correct" 3-person description of ourselves (like the artificial digital body proposed by the digital computationalist doctor).

> When all that is in doubt is removed, we don't arrive at zero as is > classically thought,

... before Godel & Co. Classical philosophy is different before and after Turing, Post, Church, Godel, Markov, Uspenski, Kolmogorov, etc.

> but at some indistinct offset determined
> by our very nature as a reasoner embedded in a real environment.

Here there is a technical problem because there is just no "real environment"; but it could be easily resolved by replacing "real environment" by "relatively most probable computational histories".
This is more coherent with both the comp hyp and quantum mechanics.

> Understanding this eliminates the pressure to deal with conceptual
> identities leading to meaningless absolutes.

I am not sure which "meaningless absolutes" you refer too. In the comp theory many simple truth can be considered as absolute and indeed communicably so (like arithmetical truth, piece of set theoretical truth, ...). Also the first person (which admit some precise definition) is related to some absolutes.

> This understanding also helps resolve other philosophical "paradoxes" > such as solipsism, meaning of life, free-will and others hinging on the
> idea of a subjective center.

Hmmm here I think you are a bit quick. But I have no problem with many philosophical paradoxes, although the theory solves them with different degree of quality. "Free-will" is due in part to the availability, for enough rich universal machine, of its "ignorance space". Somehow I am free to choose going to the movie or to the theater because ... I don't know what I want .... Once I know what I want, I remain free in the sense of being self-determinate about my (future) action. For the modalist: The 3-description of that difference space is given by G* (truth about the self-referential ability of the machine) and G (what the machine can prove about its self-referential ability). But G* minus G admit modal variants, so that the ignorance space, like the whole of arithmetical truth differentiates with the change of point of view. This indeed shed light on many paradoxes (and, BTW, can also be used to show invalid many reasonings in cognitive computer science).

>> If you want (like David
>> and George) consciousness is our criteria of "absolute
>> (but not 3-communicable) truth". I don't think we can
>> genuinely doubt we are conscious, although we can doubt
>> on any content of that consciousness, but that is different.
>> We can doubt having been conscious in some past, but we cannot doubt >> being conscious here and now, whatever that means.
> <...>
>> The "truth" here bears on the existence of the experience, and has >> nothing to do with anything which could be reported by the >> experiencer.
> On this basis I understand your point, and as long as we are very
> careful about conveying which particular meaning of "knowing",
> "certainty", and "truth" we are referring to, then there will be little
> confusion.


> But such dual usage leaves us at risk of our thinking
> repeatedly falling into the singularity of the self, from which there's
> no objective (and thus workable) basis for any claim.

Here I disagree. The only risk I see, is the confusion between the 3-self (grosso modo my body or body description) and the 1-self (which *from his view* has no body at all, nor any description). This is a difficult point. G* proves that the 1-self and the 3-self are the same (extensionally: they have the same 3-behavior, same body, etc.). But G* proves also that G does not prove that equivalence so that from the first person view of the machine, those views are quite distinct and in particular they obey different logic. Simplifying a bit: the 3-view = classical logic, the 1-view = intuitionistic logic, the 1-plural view = quantum logic).

> My personal experience is that there's no paradox at all if one is
> willing to fully accept that within any framework of description there
> is absolutely no difference at all between a person and a zombie,

Should we send our children in jail when they torture their dolls? I am afraid you are using your own G* as it was a G, making the confusion described above. Sorry for analysing your comment in my "theoretical terms". I am NOT pretending the theory is correct, but in the worst case it can help as a sort of etalon for classifying other approaches.

> but
> even the most philosophically cognizant, being evolved human organisms, > will snap back to defending the existence of a 1st person point of view
> even though it isn't detectable or measurable and has absolutely no
> effect on the physical world.

Of course (for the long-time reader of the list, albeit soundly skeptical) I believe (assuming comp) the contrary: what we call "physical world" should eventually be explained in term of sheaf of cohering machine dreams. the "cohering" factor makes possible to glue together those dreams making us believe in a local physical reality, but that reality emerge from *all* machine dreams (1-plural-computations).

> It is virtually impossible for many people to see that even IF the 1st > person experience actually exists, it can't be described, even by that
> person,

Good intuition (with respect to the comp hyp.) This is even provable by the machine itself (in the form: If I am consistent then the first person cannot be described in any third person way by myself).

> except from a third person perspective.

Only trough a guess, I insist.

> That voice in your own
> mind, those images in your imagination, none can be said to be
> experienced without being interpreted.


> The idea of direct experience is
> incoherent.

Well, some inputs needs less internal processing than others. Some experiences are "more direct" than others. In any case, conscious experience most probably needs some non trivial self-reflecting processing and are not "direct". There are many "universal machine" in a brain, dynamically mirroring each others.

> It always carries the implication that there's some other
> process there to have the experience. It's turtles all the way down.

It is here that theoretical computer science can provide fixed points, i.e. definite solution for infinite regress. The key idea for self-reference can be technically approached through diagonalization procedure. As illustration you get self-reproduction by applying a duplicator on itself: if for all x, Dx gives xx, then DD gives DD.

> The essence of Buddhist training is to accept this non-existence of > Self > at a deep level. It is very rare, but not impossible to achieve such > an > understanding, and while still experiencing the illusion, to see it as
> an illusion, with no actual boundary to distinguish an imagined self
> from the rest of nature. I think that a machine intelligence, while
> requiring a model of self, would have no need of this illusion which is
> a result of our evolutionary development.

I am not sure about that. Once the machine has a "model" of itself, there is part of itself which will be interpreted correctly as "perceptive fields" in the company of measurable but incommunicable intensities, and this can provide natural candidates for qualia. Some "local self" can be illusory, but some enlarged global self could be "correct illusion", i.e. stable and consistent lawful "illusion" with respect to its most probable (set of) computational histories. I don't think this is "completely programmable", but it is partially programmable by some formula like "help yourself", and so I could agree this necessitate "evolutionary development". Those developments could be necessary long (thus deep in Bennett sense for those who have read Bennett). Again, in that sense, I agree with you. But such long computation generates our "bio-physics". Physics is "secondary" with respect to the set of all possible computations (cf Church thesis).



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