SP: 'Recall that ordinary life does not involve anything like perfect
copying of your brain from moment to moment. Thousands of neurons are
dying all the time and you don't even notice, and it is possible to
infarct a substantial proportion of your brain and finish up with just a
bit of a limp. So although a copy of your brain will need to meet some
minimum standard this standard will fall far short of perfect copying at
the quantum level.'
MP: Yes this bit is actually quite scary if you think about it too
much! :-0 Maybe true wisdom does indeed entail imbibing a certain
amount of ethanol each day, [medicinal dry Red according to St Paul I
believe] just to smooth out any awkward gaps in the transcription!
However, the main thrust of my assertion about infinite resources was
more to do with the need, in making a copy of something, to go well
within the tolerances when taking the initial measurements because the
digital copy, once made, has got to provide ALL the information
necessary for reconstitution and this involves not simply something
admittedly BIG but static, but in fact all sufficient information to
reproduce all salient changes and transformations occurring at the time
of read out. Admittedly the traveller will not be aware of many
discrepancies because, to paraphrase your statement above, the process
of living is inherently noisy anyway. The communication utility's
engineers will have to ensure that all measuring, storing, transmission,
and reconstitution processes operate to a resolution finer than the
normal entropic noise of life because they will not know just which
features/life processes are salient at the copying time.
SP: 'You don't actually have to emulate the entire universe, just enough
to fool its inhabitants. For example, you don't need to emulate the
appearance of a snowflake in the Andromeda galaxy except in the unlikely
event that someone went to have a look at it.'
MP: I think this turns on how smart the inhabitants are, which
ultimately comes down to whether or not they have discovered scientific
method or not. Scientific method makes the species much smarter -
despite themselves! If the matrixian species discovers scientific
method, the matrix maker [Nerd, the Holy One] will have to lift
his/her/its game to be able to cover all scientific questions the
matrixians ask. That will not be easy! I am not sure if what I am saying
relates well to what Colin Hales was saying about 1st person awareness
and the nature of scientific endeavour, I don't think I really
understood Colin's argument. I am fairly confident here though that
scientific method imposes a discipline upon sentient observers that
provokes the asking of truly interesting questions which eventually must
lead to the true 'edges' of the practically testable world. The Nerd god
will be forced to expend exponentially greater resources each time the
matrixians make a new discovery in basic science otherwise his children,
the matrixians, will come to smell a Rat.
SP: 'They don't exist as material objects but they are true
independently of whether anyone discovers mathematical truths. The
number 17 is prime because it's prime, not because someone discovered it
MP: True, but it doesn't EXIST until someone or something discovers it.
This is somewhat analogous to the tree falling in the forest of the deaf
My take on the real world is that the Existent, or the existing [for
those with eliminativist leanings], has/have a not-quite-opposite. The
two are somehow not the same but they interpenetrate in a dynamic way
that amounts to a constant adjustment, consolidation and simplification
of the one which I think entails a constant adjustment, diversification,
spreading and compexifying of the other. If that sounds bad and not
'well formed' then you are right and it is probably much worse than you
fear but who cares! this is metaphysics noumenal ontology not boring old
mathematics! [sorry, just joking! I'm adjusting the medication at the
moment but it's all under control :-]
I think the upshot of this is that quantity in my version of the real
world goes something like 'one, two, three, many ... ' and so forth but
each of those words applies to what is only an approximation anyway.
Exactness doesn't come into it and the initial separation, THIS TIME, so
to speak, was about what we might call 12+ billion years ago, if you get
my drift. And why did it happen? Because it could I suppose, but do we
really care? For me the central feature of this is not numbers, counting
and so forth because that is just stuff that people do, and some a lot
more than others. For me the central feature is that what I have
described constitutes connectivity and the true universal matrix. The
One - which might be called the Existent - broke or split, and started
collapsing . It has never stopped collapsing but is still all connected.
The Other - what might be called the not-quite-opposite - is possibly no
more than a boundary, the fact of the Existent not being connected.
I can elaborate on this, at length if this is called for, but I do not
have any snazzy notation. It is how I think about so called Process
Physics. A key point is that of existence. As far as I can see no amount
of gross or subtle 'computation' theory can sidestep, let alone dispense
with, the raw fact of existence. If it were not such a great reassurance
to be able to be aware of one's own existence, it could be down right
embarrassing to feel forced to appeal to common sense on such a profound
issue, especially when confronted with deeply penetrating arguments
uttered by highly educated people. Any way, however silly it may seem to
some, I cling to my personal axiom that if something cannot be put into
plain English then it probably isn't true. Then I say to myself: 'What
if I say that I don't exist?' This just doesn't seem to ring true
somehow, so then I try saying: 'What if I say that the universe doesn't
exist?' This doesn't make sense to me either so I conclude, rightly or
wrongly, that for the time being at least there is a universe and I am
here and that it is most likely that the universe exists whether I
happen to notice it or not. I think it is bigger than me, in fact much
SP: 'What if we use the word 'cause' rather than supervenience?'
MP: I prefer the word 'is'. It seems to me to be a lot simpler.
Mark Peaty CDES
Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
Mark Peaty writes:
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
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 :-)
Recall that ordinary life does not involve anything like perfect
copying of your brain from moment to moment. Thousands of neurons are
dying all the time and you don't even notice, and it is possible to
infarct a substantial proportion of your brain and finish up with just
a bit of a limp. So although a copy of your brain will need to meet
some minimum standard this standard will fall far short of perfect
copying at the quantum level.
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!']
You don't actually have to emulate the entire universe, just enough to
fool its inhabitants. For example, you don't need to emulate the
appearance of a snowflake in the Andromeda galaxy ecxept in the
unlikely event that someone went to have a look at it.
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.
They don't exist as material objects but they are true independently
of whether anyone discovers mathematical truths. The number 17 is
prime because it's prime, not because someone discovered it was prime.
[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! :-)
What if we just use the word "cause" in place of "supervenience"?
There is good evidence that brain activity causes mental activity,
because whenever there is appropriate brain activity, there is
corresponding mental activity, and when the brain activity stops or
changes sufficiently, the mental activity also stops or changes. This
is all very good until we speculate that emulating the physical
activity of a brain with a computer program, so that the program can
predict the types of behaviours a human would display in particular
situations, would also bring with it the corresponding conscious
experiences of a human: i.e., computationalism. One of the
consequences of computationalism would seem to be that two systems may
not differ in physical activity yet differ in mental activity. This is
explored in Tim Maudlin's paper:
Maudlin, Tim. 1989. Computation and Consciousness. The Journal of
Philosophy, vol. LXXXVI, no. 8. p. 407-432
It is also explored in Bruno's "movie graph argument" in his PhD
thesis, although that is in French. A recent discussion in the list
archive in which I attempted a summary of the argument is here:
The irony is that computationalists are almost all hard-headed
materialists, but it doesn't seem that you can consistently be both a
computationalist and a materialist!
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