SP: 'using the term "comp" as short for "computationalism" as something
picked up from Bruno. On the face of it, computationalism seems quite
sensible: the best theory of consciousness and the most promising
candidate for producing artificial intelligence/consciousness'
That is what I thought 'comp' meant. My approach to this is to adhere,
as much as possible, to plain and simple English. Not being a
'mathematician' I stick with my type of sceptical method. To me this
does not seem deeply problematic although is does of course limit the
scope of conversations I can participate in. As far as I can see,
Bruno's grand scheme depends on 'assume', like the economists do.
Unfortunately that which is assumed remains, I believe, unprovable.
Furthermore there are deep, common sense, problems which undermine all
these theories of universal emulation possibilities, never mind those
potentially lethal :-) teleporting/fax holidays and cryogenic time shifts.
The biggest hurdle is the requirement for infinite computing ability.
This is simply the recognition that all measurements are approximations
so the teleporter/fax machine could only ever send an approximate copy
of me to whatever destination duty or holiday dreamings might lead me.
Still, it is probable that I, as subjective experiencer, would not
notice most anomalies, particularly if trying to fill in the temporal
gaps caused by Bruno's gratuitous delays in reading me back out of his
This limitation hits all the 'Matrix' type scenarios as well: the
emulation system would require essentially infinite computing capacity
to reproduce any useful world that a real person inhabits. If on the
other hand the Matrix is only concerned to make A world, its virtual
reality inhabitants might be sustained [I am admitting this as a
possibility] until they started engaging in real science. As I
understand things the denizens of a Matrix type world would start to
find real anomalies in their 'reality' unless the matrix machine could
operate at a fineness of resolution unattainable by any experimental
method the matrixians could devise. There would be much less, or even no
problem at all if they were all believers in 'Intelligent Design' of
course. [I can put that very rudely as: the problem is not 'If our mind
were simple enough to understand then we would be too dumb to understand
it' but rather 'If Intelligent Design were really true then we have been
designed to be so dumb that it really doesn't matter!']
Re "Platonic objects" - I think this is illusory. The numbers that
people write down and think about are words in the language/s of
logico-mathematics. They do what they do because they are defined as
such but they do not exist apart from the systems which generate and
record them - by which I mean brains, blackboards and computers, etc...
The regularities, and exciting facts people discover about them are just
that, regularities and exciting facts about languages. I don't mean that
in any derogatory sense. We live largely BY MEANS OF our languages and
certainly our cultural lives as human beings would be impossible without
language in the general and inclusive senses. But the universe is not
made out of languages, it just exists - for the moment at least.
[NB: it just occurs to me that certain G/goddists will say that the
universe is made out of the mind of G/god/s which could perhaps be
included as a or THE language of existence. To be 'perfect' however,
this would need to be allowed to have infinite recursion, i.e. ''made
out of(made out of(made out of(made out of ... -> inf ... ))). As far as
I can see however this would amount to an assertion of many layered
uncertainty and/or a Heraclitan in-falling in the direction of
smallwards due to the necessity of each layer of divinity maintaining
omniscience, omnipotence, and so for, over and under its 'turf'. As this
has the minimalist effect of underpinning either standard model QM, etc.
or something like the Process Physics advocated by Colin Hales and
friends [which I find attractive], all is well with the world. :-]
But, seriously, all this stuff about 'supervening' and so forth is all
based on the Cartesian assumption that mind-stuff has no physical
extension. Well the Inquisition is no longer the authority or power base
that it was and empirical science has moved on. I think the onus is
falling ever more heavily on those who deny the identity of mind and
brain to explain WHY they still do so. The 'distinction' between 1st and
3rd person view points is simply raw fact. Both view points have limits
which can be seen to derive from the view of reality they embody. 1st
person viewpoint conflates the experience of being the embodiment of a
view point with an experience of all that is viewable, the 3rd person
viewpoint conflates objective models of things with the things
themselves. There is a sense in which these are simply manifestations of
the same raw fact of life: the model of something is not the thing, it
is only ABOUT the thing. Amen! :-)
Mark Peaty CDES
Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
Mark Peaty writes:
SP: ' In the end, what is "right" is an irreducible personal belief,
which you can try to change by appeal to emotions or by example, but
not by appeal to logic or empirical facts. And in fact I feel much
safer that way: if someone honestly believed that he knew what was
"right" as surely as he knew 2+2=4, he would be a very dangerous
person. Religious fanatics are not dangerous because they want to do
evil, but because they want to do good. '
MP: I agree with this, saving only that, on a 'numbers' basis, there
are those whose personal evolution takes them beyond the dynamic of
'good' or 'evil' into the domain of power for its own sake. This
entails complete loss of empathic ability and I think it could be
argued that such a person is 'legislating' himself out of the human
MP: I think a key point with 'irreducible personal belief' is that
the persons in question need to acknowledge the beliefs as such and
take responsibility for them. I believe we have to point this out,
whenever we get the opportunity, because generally most people are
reluctant to engage in analysis of their own beliefs, in public
anyway. I think part of the reason for this is the cultural climate
[meme-scape?] in which Belief in a G/god/s or uncritical Faith are
still held to be perfectly respectable. This cultural climate is what
Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennet have been criticising in recent
books and articles.
SP: 'I am not entirely convinced that comp is true'
MP: At the moment I am satisfied that 'comp' is NOT true, certainly
in any format that asserts that 'integers' are all that is needed.
'Quantum' is one thing, but 'digital' is quite another :-) The main
problem [fact I would prefer to say] is that existence is irreducible
whereas numbers or Number be dependent upon something/s existing.
I have fallen into sometimes using the term "comp" as short for
"computationalism" as something picked up from Bruno. On the face of
it, computationalism seems quite sensible: the best theory of
consciousness and the most promising candidate for producing
artificial intelligence/consciousness (if they are the same thing: see
below). Assuming comp, Bruno goes through 8 steps in his Universal
Dovetailer Argument (UDA), eg. in this paper:
All of the steps are relatively straightforward until step 8, which
invokes an argument discovered by Bruno and Tim Maudlin demonstrating
that there is a problem with the theory that the mental supervenes on
the physical. It seems that to be consistent you have to allow either
that any computation, including the supposedly conscious ones,
supervenes on any physical activity, or that computations do not
supervene on physical activity at all but are complete in themselves,
consciousness included, by virtue of their status as Platonic objects.
Bruno concludes that the latter is the case, but Maudlin appears to
take both possibilities as obviously absurd and thus presents the
paper as a problem with computationalism itself.
MP: Why are we not zombies? The answer is in the fact of
self-referencing. In our case [as hominids] there are peculiarities
of construction and function arisen from our evolutionary history,
but there is nothing in principle to deny self-awareness from a
silicon-electronic entity that embodied sufficient details within a
model of self in the world. The existence of such a model would
constitute its mind, broadly speaking, and the updating of the model
of self in the world would be the experience of self awareness. What
it would be like TO BE the updating of such a model of self in the
world is something we will probably have to wait awhile to be told :-)
It seems reasonable to theorise that if an entity could behave like a
conscious being, it must be a conscious being. However, the theory
does not have the strength of logical necessity. It is quite possible
that if nature had electronic circuits to play with, beings displaying
intelligent behaviour similar to our own may have evolved, but lacking
consciousness. This need not lead to the usual criticism: in that
case, how can I be sure my fellow humans are conscious? My fellow
humans not only behave like me, they have a biological brain like me.
We would have to invoke magic to explain how God has breathed
consciousness into one person but not another, but there is no such
theoretical problem if the other person turns out to be a robot. My
personal view is that if a computer simply learned to copy my
behaviour by studying me closely if it were conscious it would
probably be differently conscious. If the computer attempted to copy
me by emulating my neuronal activity I would be more confident that it
was conscious in the same way I am, although I would not be 100%
certain. But if I were copied in a teleportation experiment to a
similar tolerance level as occurs in normal moment to moment living,
it would be absurd to seriously contemplate that the copy was a zombie
or differed significantly in his experiences from the original.
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