Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> John Mikes writes:
>> Regarding consciousness being generated by physical activity, would it help 
>> if
>> I said that if a conventional computer is conscious, then, to be consistent, 
>> a
>> rock would also have to be conscious?
>> JM:  Bruno:
>> A rock will not read an article in the Figaro, but that is not the rock's 
>> fault. It is our usage of the human terms transferred into non-human 
>> applications, what I sense all over. Did we properly identified 'conscious'? 
>> I feel (generalized DOWN the complexity-scale)  it is some 'mental 
>> sensitivity' - maybe more. Human mentality of course. Even if animals are 
>> deemed conscious, it is in human measures. Like: animals are stupid: cannot 
>> talk. Washoe chimp 'talked' US sign language and how else should a creature 
>> articulate its sounds (for human talk) without proper equipment to do so?
>> Sensitivity with the proper premises is 'conscious' in humans - as we call 
>> it. A rock has response to information it can acknowledge, it is semantics 
>> what word we use to mark it. A pine tree does not run, a human does not fly. 
>> (how stupid, says the chicken),
> I make the claim that a rock can be conscious assuming that computationalism 
> is true; it may not be true, in which case neither a rock nor a computer may 
> be 
> conscious. There is no natural syntax or semantics for a computer telling us 
> what should count as a "1" or a "0", what should count as a red perception, 
> and 
> so on. These things are determined by how the computer is designed to 
> interact 
> with its environment, whether that mean outputting the sum of two numbers to 
> a screen or interacting with a human to convince him that it is conscious. 
> But what 
> if the environment is made part of the computer? The constraint on meaning 
> and 
> syntax would then go, and the vibration of atoms in a rock could be 
> implementing 
> any computation, including any conscious computation, if such there are.
> John Searle, among others, believes this is absurd, and that therefore it 
> disproves 
> computationalism. Another approach is that it shows that it is absurd that 
> consciousness 
> supervenes on physical activity of any sort, but we can keep computationalism 
> and 
> drop the physical supervenience criterion, as Bruno has.
> Stathis Papaioannou

I have a view that seems to me to be slightly different.  Consciousness 
requires interaction with an environment; consciousness implicitly requires a 
distinction between "I" and "the world".  So when you attribute consciousness 
to a rock, incorporating "the world" as part of the rock, while the remainder 
of the rock is "conscious" that raises problems.  We can say that this part of 
the rock is conscious of that part; making some arbitrary division of the rock. 
 But then it's not conscious in/of our universe.  

When you say there is no canonical syntax, which is what allows anything to be 
a computation of anything else, I think that is overstates the case.  Suppose a 
particular pair of iron atoms in the rock are magnetically aligned and the 
syntax counts that as "0" while anti-aligned counts as "1".  Then what 
computation is implemented by "0000000..."?  The arbitrariness of syntax 
supposedly allows this to be translated into "27" or some other number.  But 
then the translation has to have all possible words in it and the relational 
meanings of those words; including the words for all the numbers in that world. 
 This places a pretty strong restriction on the size of the rock-world - there 
are only some 10^25 atoms to do all this representing.

Brent Meeker

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