On Sun, Jun 24, 2007 at 08:20:49PM +0100, David Nyman wrote:
> RS:  In some Platonic sense, all possible observers are already
> out there, but by physically instantiating it in our world, we are in
> effect opening up a communication channel between ourselves and the
> new consciousness.
> 
> I think I must be missing something profound in your intended meanings of:
> 
> 1) 'out there'
> 2) 'physically instantiating'
> 3) 'our world'
> 
> My current 'picture' of it is as follows.  The 'Platonic sense' I assume
> equates to the 'bit-string plenitude' (which is differentiable from 'no
> information' only by internal observers, like the Library of Babel - a
> beautiful idea BTW).  

Its more actually "out there in the Multiverse", rather than the
Plenitude, as the Multiverse is a necessary prerequisite of
observation. Its at least one level of emergence up from the bitstring
plenitude. 

> But I'm assuming a 'hierarchy' of recursive
> computational emergence through bits up through, say, strings, quarks,
> atoms, molecules, etc - in other words what is perceived as matter-energy by
> observers.  I then assume that both 'physical objects' and any correlated
> observers emerge from this matter-energy level, and that this co-emergence
> accomplishes the 'physical instantiation'.  

Emergence is entirely a phenomenon of the observer. No observer, no
emergence. So I wouldn't really be calling it co-emergence.

What must emerge from the physics is the perception of self, or
self-awareness. Whether this can be identified with consciousness is
rather a moot point, perhaps to be settled much later. Someone like
Hoftstadter with his strange loops would probably argue in favour of
this however. So would Dennett, if I read him correctly.

> IOW, the observer is the
> 1-person view, and the physical behaviour the 3-person view, of the same
> underlying complex emergent - they're different descriptions of the same
> events.

3rd person behaviour is that which is shared by all possible
observers. There is also first person plural phenomena, sharable
between multiple observers, but not necessarily all. Science, as we
practise it today, is strictly first person plural, though in
principle at least shared by all humans regardless of culture. Some of
physics, like quantum laws, and the conservation laws that arise from
point of view invariance is however a string candidate for being
called 3rd person.

> 
> If this is so, then as you say, the opening of the 'communication channel'
> would be a matter of establishing the means and modes of interaction with
> any new consciousness, because the same seamless underlying causal sequence
> unites observer-world and physical-world: again, different descriptions,
> same events.
> 

OK - it seems you're talking about supervenience here.

> If the above is accepted (but I'm beginning to suspect there's something
> deeply wrong with it), then the 'stability' of the world of the observer
> should equate to the 'stability' of the physical events to which it is
> linked through *identity*. 

This is where I get lost. Stability of the world has to do with
the necessary robustness property of observers, as I argue in section
4.2 of my book. I note also in that section that alternative proposals
exist as well.

> Now here's what puzzles me.  ISTM that the
> imputation of 'computation' to the physical computer is only through the
> systematic correspondence of certain stable aspects of its (principally)
> electronic behaviour to computational elements: numbers,
> mathematical-logical operators, etc.  The problem is in the terms
> 'imputation' and 'correspondence': this is surely merely a *way of speaking*
> about the physical events in the computer, an arbitrary ascription, from an
> infinite possible set, of externally-established semantics to the intrinsic
> physical syntactics.
>

The attribution of computation is performed by the observer (otherwise
known as user) of the computer, as you say. The attribution of consciousness in
any processes can only be done by the conscious observer
erself. Attribution of consciousness in any non-self process can never
be definite, although it is typically useful to attribute a mind to
other processes in the environment to help reason about them (other
people, obviously, but also many of the more complicated animals, and
perhaps also to computers when they achieve a certain level of
sophistication). 

But by accepting functionalism, we can even make stronger assertions -
processes that sufficiently accurately mimic conscious ones, must
therefore be conscious.
 
> Consequently, ISTM that the emergence of observer-worlds has to be
> correlated (somehow) - one-to-one, or isomorphically - with corresponding
> 'physical' events: IOW these events, with their 'dual description',
> constitute a single 'distinguished' *causal* sequence.  By contrast, *any*
> of the myriad 'computational worlds' that could be ascribed to the same
> events must remain - to the computer, rather than the programmer - only
> arbitrary or 'imaginary' ones.  This is why I described them as 'nested' -
> perhaps 'orthogonal' or 'imaginary' are better: they may - 'platonically' -
> exist somewhere in the plenitude, but causally disconnected from the
> physical world in which the computer participates. The computer doesn't
> 'know' anything about them.  Consequently, how could they possess any
> 'communication channel' to the computer's - and our - world 'out there'?
> 

The conscious entity that the computer implements would know about
it. It is not imaginary to itself. And by choosing to interpret the
computer's program in that way, rather than say a tortured backgammon
playing program, we open a channel of communication with the
consciousness it implements.

We've had some discussion here about whether rocks can be conscious or
not, which has some bearing on this topic.

> Of course I'm not claiming by this that machines couldn't be conscious.  My
> claim is rather that if they are, it couldn't be solely in virtue of any
> 'imaginary computational worlds' imputed to them, but rather because they
> support some unique, distinguished process of *physical* emergence that also
> corresponds to a unique observer-world: and of course, mutatis mutandis,
> this must also apply to the 'mind-brain' relationship.
> 
> If I'm wrong (as no doubt I am), ISTM I must have erred in some step or
> other of my logic above.  How do I debug it?
> 
> David
> 

OK - hopefully the above comments help. But in turn they probably need
to be "debugged".

               Cheers


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