To avoid to much posts in your mail box, I send all my comments in this post,

Hi Brent,

1a) Brent meeker wrote (quoting Jim Heldberg) :

Atheism is not a religion, just as a vacant lot is not a type of
building, and health is not a form of sickness.  Atheism is not a
        --- Jim Heldberg

It seems to me that Jim Heldberg confuse the scientist (indeed) attitude of agnosticism and atheism.
Let D = the proposition "God exists", "~" = NOT, B = believes.

An agnostic is someone for which the proposition "~BD" is true. (And "~B~D" could be true as well)
An atheist is someone for which "B~D" is true.

The atheist is a believer. As John M often says, an atheist already has some notion of God such as to be able to believe it does not exist. Now most atheist are already "believer" in believing "religiously" in Primary Matter (a metaphysical entity).

I'am agnostic in both sense. I do not believe in God, nor do I believe in Matter. Those terms are not enough well defined. I do neither believe in the inexistence of God, nor in the inexistence of Matter. I wait for more data.

But assuming comp, I must confess that I have *reason* to put some more credo on Plotinus, and other platonist approaches, on "mind/god/matter" and fundamental principle, than on the aristotelian primitive matter theory. Actually, I infer the same belief from the empirical quantum data.

1b) Brent wrote to John M:

Values existed longer before humans.

So you are a bit Platonist too .... :)

1c) Brent wrote (to Stathis):

How is this infinite regress avoided in our world? By consciousness not representing the rest of the world.

That is an interesting idea. You could elaborate a bit perhaps? I do agree with your most of your recent replies to Stathis about the question "does a rock think?". But perhaps not entirely for the same reason as you. We will see.

The world is what it is and representation is not essential. I suppose this is somewhat like Peter's "primitive substance" whose only function is to distinguish things that exist from their representation.

yes, but then the question is "what are you assuming to exist?"

1d) Brent wrote to Mark Peaty (in Jason's thread about "irreversibility):

I think there is a confusion creeping in here. I don't think "logically reversible" is misleading. It is only physical processes that can be termed reversible or irreversible. Logic lives in a timeless Platonia. Computers operated irreversibly, they dissipate heat when they they erase data. Feynman pointed out that this was not necessary and a computer that did not erase data could operate without dissipating heat (no increase in entropy).

The logician Hao Wang, is, as far as I know, the first to prove that a universal machine can operate without ever erasing information, and this is enough for developping notion of logical reversibility (quite useful in quantum computing). I say more in term of "combinators" in my Elsevier paper. The one which is not yet on my web page. People interested can ask me a preprint. Grosso modo you lose universality if both "eliminating info" is prohibited and "duplicating info".

2a) John wrote to Jamie:

Sponging the 'gedanken..' - the falling treebranch reflects in your version the omniscient arrogant reductionist position. I go with Popper: no evidence, because we cannot encompass 'totality'  (my conclusion).

Cute. And admitting to represent "totality" by the set of codes of total (everywhere defined) computable functions, this can be made very precise in term of the Wi and the Fi, as I try to explain from time to time in the list.

I would'nt go to the primitive mechanistic AI-levels to learn about mentality unlimited. Bits (and pieces) for unrestricted relations. AI simulates (mechanically?) certain aspects of human mentality - up to a limited fashion.

You seem quite sure about that. How do you know? Why couldn'it be that *you* find this "limited" due to your own prejudice about numbers and machines?

2b) John wrote to Brent:

So noted. (However: in my feeble English 'bias' means
'~prejudice' and I have yet to learn about prejudicial
instruments. Unless we accept the "conscious
instrument e.g. a thinking yardstick).  I, as a
Loebian machine, may well be prejudicial).

That is true!!! Are you serious about being a lobian machine? As a matter of fact, lobian machine can know and prove that they are lobian. To prove being a *consistent* lobian machine is quite another matter, though .... It is not impossible. *Inconsistent* lobian machine *can* prove that they are consistent lobian machine, but then they can prove the existence of Santa Klaus, and also, to be sure, of 0 = 1.

3a) Stathis wrote (to me):

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?

I think you could be right ... It is difficult because terms like "conventional" and "physical" are quite fuzzy. I do think that if a conventional (material in the mundane sense) is conscious, most probably anything *is* conscious, and that is related to the fact that I think (assuming the comp hypothesis) that a conventional computer is *not* conscious. Consciousness is a first person attribute, and the UDA shows that it has to be associated with an (infinity) of (mathematical) computations. This 1-person has no shape, and can even be considered as not being a machine. I guess we will have to discuss this with more details.

It's difficult to find the right words here. I think we can all agree on the appearance
of a physical reality as a starting point.


The common sense view is that there is an
underlying primitive physical reality generating this appearance, without which the appearance would vanish and relative to which dream and illusion can be defined.
If this is so, it is not a scientifically testable theory.

I think it is testable indirectly. Recall that although I disagree with Penrose godelian argument, I do arrive at similar conclusion: you cannot have both "computationalism" and "materialism".

We can't just switch off the
physical reality to see whether it changes the appearance, and the further we delve into matter all we see is more appearance (and stranger and stranger appearance at that). Moreover, dream and illusion are defined relative to the appearance of regular physical reality, not relative to the postulated primitive physical reality.

I would say "relative to a theory explaining the appearances", not just to the appearances.

3b) Stathis wrote to John M:

Not really: the people who claim they saw Elvis after his alleged death are more numerous and more credible than the second-hand (at best) Biblical accounts of Jesus being sighted after his crucifixion. When I have put this to Christians they answer that Elvis did not claim to be God etc. Well, if he had done, would that
make a difference?

I'm afraid it would have!
Reciprocally, would Jesus have been only a musician, things would have been different, I guess :)

3c) Stathis wrote to John in another post:

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.


3d) Stathis wrote to Brent:

Any serial computation can be made up of multiple parallel computations, and vice versa. You can't say, aha, we've used that string for "dog" so we can't now use it for "cat", because who is going to patrol the universe to enforce this rule? This is what you are left with if you eliminate the constraint that the computation has to interact with an external observer. I am aware that this is a very strange idea, perhaps even an absurd idea, but I don't see any way out of it without ruining computationalism, as by saying that it's all bunk, or only computations that can interact with the environment at the level of their implementation can be conscious. Because if you insist on the latter, it implies something like ESP: the computer will know the difference between a false sensory stimulus and one emanating from the environment... possible, but not very Turing-emulable.

I agree with Brent's remark on that: "I find that doubtful - do you have a reference? Isn't it the definition of "incompressible" computation that there is no way faster than executing each step in sequence (Brent Meeker).

3e) Stathis' answer to Brent:

I'm not referring to speed, just to doing it. For example, a serial stream of consciousness can be emulated by multiple shorter parallel streams; there is no way of knowing whether you're being run in serial, parallel, how fast the real world clock is running, etc.

I agree there is no way to know whether you are being run in serial, parallel, etc. But mathematically multiple shorter parallel streams have to be able to be glued, at least mathematically, for constituting a proper computation. If not literally anything can be described as a computation. That is why I explicitly use a mathematical definition of computation, and then(and only then) try to figure out what is a rock, for example.

4) Mark Peaty wrote (to Brent):

As I say, the essence of evil is the act of treating other persons as things.

I so agree with you. And then, with Church thesis (less than comp, thus) you can understand the reason why even some (relative) machine and some (relative) numbers should not be confused with any of their third person description.

On another tack: it seems to me the extent and scope of suffering in the world is one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the total irrelevance of the concept of G/god/s. However it is not for me to go around telling those who believe in some G/god/s that they are deluded.

Do you agree that those who believe in a primitive physical universe could be deluded in the same manner than those who believe in some notion of God. Perhaps even in a worse manner, because many people believe that the existence of a primitive material universe is a "scientific fact". Of course not. At least in many theological text, the word "God" is used in a more axiomatic way than "Matter" is by some scientist (at lunch or during the week-end). Most religious people will never say that the existence of God is a scientific fact, and in that sense are less deluded than many materialist.

Wei Dai wrote :

As for the simulation argument itself, I've suggested previously that instead of thinking "which kind of universe am I likely to be in", it makes more sense to consider myself as being "simultaneously" in all universes that contain me, and to decide my actions based on their effects on the overall multiverse.

I agree. It is not even just an option with the comp hyp. With comp we just cannot belongs to a universe or to a computational history, we always "belong" to an infinity of them.


PS to Mark Peaty: I will address you last post soon (Friday, I guess).
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