Bruno Marchal writes:
> 1. The implementation problem: everything can implement a computation
> if you look at it the right way.
> Normally this is of no consequence - mapping the vibration of atoms in
> a rock to a word processing program would be at least as difficult as
> building a conventional computer and writing the software for it - but
> if computations can be conscious, then the conscious computations are
> hiding all around us.
Here I disagree. This has never been proved, except that in quantum
field theory a case can be developed for justifying that the quantum
vacuum quantum-simulates the whole quantum multiverse. But this has
nothing to do with comp. It is true with any realistic non collapse
interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Actually it less a problem for a
computationalist because this is equivalent to some homogeneous
addition of universal dovetailer "everywhere" (if that exists, which is
not even the case). There is no reason this would change any relative
and internal measure. But with my argument, anything physical,
including the vacuum, is emergent from the dreams, so there is no
Putnam-Chalmers-Mallah problem for comp. I explained this to Jacques
Mallah some years ago.
(BTW, John Searle can be added to the list of people who discussed this
I wonder if we are talking about the same thing, because it doesn't seem to me that
an empirical proof is needed to show that any physical process could be seen as
implementing any computation. For example, it is no problem if the physical process
under consideration lacks a sufficient number of distinct states, because the one
state can be reused to perform as many computations in parallel as you want, in the
same way as a certain value in a given computer processor register will be the same
in the course of countless possible computations. Of course this is completely useless
as far as practical computation goes because to keep track of random 1's and 0's
which, looked at the right way, are implementing a word processing program, you
need to write the program and implement it on a conventional computer to keep track
of everything. It is like saying that a page covered in ink contains any given text: true
in a trivial sense, useless as far as helping you write a letter goes. However, what if
computation can give rise to consciousness? This would be like saying, what if a particular
page of text were conscious? You would still need to remove all the unnecessary ink in
order to read and perhaps interact with the text, but if you just left it alone it would
still be conscious, dreaming away on the black page. One argument against this idea is
that it is not enough to leave the computation (or the text) hidden in randomness, because
it is only through interaction with the environment that consciousness manifests and only
conventional brains and computers can interact with the environment. But this excludes the
possibility that the conscious entity is dreaming or interacting with a virtual reality, isolated
from the substrate of its implementation due to the impenetrable randomness.
> 2. The Maudlin/Marchal argument showing that even if you specify that
> a computer must handle counterfactuals in order to avoid the "trivial"
> conclusion (1), you end up concluding that physical processes are
> irrelevant to consciousness.
> You (BM) think that (1) is absurd but (2) is OK; Maudlin thinks that
> (1) and (2) are both absurd, and that therefore computationalism is a
> flawed theory. You would like to keep computationalism but drop the
> computers, i.e. the supervenience thesis. I am not certain which I
> would rather drop: computationalism or the idea of disembodied
I am quite willing to drop comp, once I get a real flaw. Now I have
almost never take seriously the supervenience thesis, if only because
it leads to an insoluble problem (more or less the one called
"mind-body" problem in the literature). Also, one of my motivation
since the beginning is to get an explanation for the appearance of
matter. Physicists have developed, through Aristotelian philosophy, a
methodology for progressing without addressing that question. It has
been a powerful methodological idea, but it is flawful for those who
ask themselves what is the nature of matter. I am worried how much it
has been easy for physicist to accept pure non sense like wave collapse
or Bohr unrealistic attitude. It works for building ships and bombs,
not for getting a better understanding of what happen.
>> > It is quite possible, for example, that there is something special
>> > about the structure of the brain which leads to consciousness, and
>> a > digital computer will not be able to copy this, even if it copies
>> 3rd > person observable behaviour. Against that idea is the question
>> of why > we didn't evolve to be zombies, but maybe we would have if
>> nature had > electronic circuits to play with.
>> You are saying that zombie are possible if comp is false. I can
>> agree. Actually I believe that comp entails the existence of a notion
>> of local zombie (which can make you believe that they are conscious
>> during a time).
>> > If I had to guess between comp and not-comp I don't think I could
>> do > better than flipping a coin.
>> Comp is my working hypothesis, and I tend to consider that arguing
>> for or against comp is a bit of a waste of time (especially given
>> that comp is undecidable for machines).
>> Still I am astonished that you would flip a coin on that matter. Comp
>> is just the statement that "I" am turing emulable at some level. Even
>> if we have to emulate the quantum state of the entire galaxy (some
>> "generalized brain") comp remain true unless we have both:
>> - my brain = the "complete physical" description of the galaxy
>> - the "object" galaxy is not turing emulable.
> It is possible to drop computationalism and keep a form of
> functionalism, without introducing magical effects or even any new
> physics. For example, it is possible that consciousness is a property
> of actual neuronal activity, and although you might be able to emulate
> this activity using a digital computer, even to the point where you
> can build a substitute brain that behaves just like the biological
> equivalent, it won't be conscious.
> In order to build a proper replacement brain you would have to copy
> the actual physical structure of the neurons, not just emulate them. I
> am not sure that I believe this theory but it is theoretically
Yes of course. But there is nothing new here. Even comp itself forces
us (the machine) to find non-comp plausible. I mean comp can be false.
My main technical point is that comp is even falsifiable, given that it
gives the laws of physics. The UDA does not only show that physics
emerges from numbers, it show exactly how physics emerges from numbers.
The comp-physics is entirely determined by the relations between
numbers. I thought in my youth that comp would be refuted. Now that I
have make progress (in my thesis) on the comp-physics, I am less sure.
Indeed, where the logic of physics should occur through the relation
between numbers, I get non trivial arithmetical quantum logics.
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