On Fri, Apr 20, 2007 at 06:18:48PM -0000, Jason wrote:
> Hi Russell,
> 
> I wanted to let you know that I read your book "Theory of Nothing", it
> was a nice read and had a lot of interesting ideas.  I espeacially
> liked the comparison of the empty set to it's disjoint set containing
> everything.  Perhaps the idea I had the most objections to was the
> sections regarding passing mirror test -> self awareness ->
> conscious.  I agree that this relationship is true, if one passes a
> mirror test they must be conscious, 

I don't know of any reason why self awareness => consciousness, and
certainly don't claim this in the book. 

> but I disagree with the reverse
> relationship that consciousness -> passing mirror test.  Or that
> consciousness -> self awareness.
> 

self-awareness => passing mirror test is probably not true. I give the
example of dogs for whom the world of scent is far more important than
the visual world. That image in  the mirror doesn't smell a bit like
them, so it is obviously another dog. :) We don't know whether dogs
are self-aware, only that they don't pass  mirror tests.

The reason why I assert that consciousness => self awareness has to do
with the Occam catastrophe argument. My book is not uniformly well
founded and does mix some speculation with with better known
results. The Occam catastrophe argument is somewhat speculative. My
only hope is that I've been sufficiently clear to allow others to
understand and criticise the arguments. So of course if you can come
up with an argument that avoids the Occam catastrophe without
necessity of self awareness for consciousness, I'd be very
interested. I'll read on to see what else you say.

> I liken passing the mirror test to a creature having an epihany
> recognizing the movements in their reflection to their own movements.
> For example Jean Piaget's theory of cognotive development specifies
> different stages marked by some limitation in thinking or reasoning.
> At the Preoperational stage, if you pour liquid from a narrow cylinder
> into cylinder with a greater radius the child will always say there
> was more liquid in the narrow cylinder.  The inability to recognize
> and associate one's movements with a reflection could be a similair
> mental block and failing the mirror test in itself shouldn't discount
> self-awareness.

Apparently human children do not pass the mirror test until age 18
months or so. I regret that I didn't think to try this on my son when
he was that age, although I suspect I would have found him
developmentally advanced in this aspect.

> 
> I have more objections to consciousness -> self awareness, perhaps we
> just have a different concept of the word conciousness but I hold
> consciousness to have the same meaning as awareness.  Awareness of
> anything implies conciousness, as to imply otherwise would allow
> philosophical zombies.  If cats (which are mostly anti-social
> creatures) are not consciouss then all cats are zombies.  Cats
> however, can see, if they are zombies than it should be logically
> possible for a person to report being able to see and act in all
> respects as a seeing person yet be a "sight-zombie" not truly and
> consciousnessly experiencing vision like you and I do.  Perhaps you
> mean conscioussness to be an internal voice of thought and reasoning,
> if that is the case then I agree with you that most animals lack this
> ability.

Actually, I do not use either of those meanings. What I mean by
consciousness is the ability to be something, in the sense of Thomas
Nagel in "What is it like to be a bat?". This may seem like the most
useless definition, however one can easily see that it can be applied
to anthropic reasoning. To be conscious is to be a member of the
equivalence class of observers (or observer moments) used in anthropic
arguments. This then feeds into the Occam catastrophe argument, and
why I assert self-awareness is necessary for consciousness. 

It is true, in a sense, that this allows the possibility of
philosophical zombies. However, adding the additional assumption of
functionalism (which I do), we can rule out zombies, at least in the
human case.


> 
> Another theory that I had some issues with was that true randomness
> provided by quantum mechanics is necessary for intelligence.  Tegmark
> has shown that quantum effects have no direct effects on the brain,
> neurons operae on a scale much larger than quantum noise.  

Tegmark's argument is not directed at the sort of mechanism I was
suggesting, but rather the sort of mechanism that Roger Penrose
suggested. What Tegmark demonstrated was that brains could not
maintain coherent quantum states long enough for realistic quantum
computing.

> If physics
> was deterministic I don't think the chemistry and functioning of the
> brain would be effected in a way that precluded intelligence.  Also as
> you mentioned, using psuedo random numbers vs. true random numbers
> didn't effect the evolution of the alife creatures,

At least I have the courage to report the (so far) negative results of
experiments that were partly designed to test this hypothesis.

>  and state of the
> art psuedo random number generates have more output than the amount of
> information contained in any single branch of this multiuniverse so it
> should be possible to algorithmically create strong AI which uses
> PRNG.
> 

How so? The amount of information generated by a PRNG is less than the
number of bytes required to encode it. That is a simple consequence of
algorithmic information theory.

> Overall though it was very insightful and did a great deal to help me
> understand some of the terminology used on the Everything List.
> 

Thanks.

> Best Regards,
> 
> Jason Resch
> 
> > ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


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A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Mathematics                              
UNSW SYDNEY 2052                         [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Australia                                http://www.hpcoders.com.au
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