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 archive :-)

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 species. 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.

Stathis Papaioannou
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