On 25/06/07, Russell Standish <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
RS: 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
RS: Emergence is entirely a phenomenon of the observer. No observer, no
emergence. So I wouldn't really be calling it co-emergence.
I just meant that the observer's world, taken with the 'physical' phenomena
correlated with it, could then be said to 'co-emerge'. It was this
relationship I was emphasising (but see below).
RS: 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.
DN: Now this seems to me crucial. When you say that self-awareness emerges
from the physics, ISTM that this is what I was getting at in the bit you
didn't comment on directly:
"My claim is....that if (machines) are (conscious), 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."
However, perhaps what is significant is the distinction you make above
between 'self-awareness', and 'consciousness', which is what I'd been trying
to do in previous posts in my unintelligible way. IOW, that some primitive
or 'distinguished' form of self-relation is associated with the physics, and
that the emergence of 'conscious' observer worlds then equates to a
hierarchy of emergence supervening on that. To use a common analogy,
observer worlds would emerge by following something like the 'distinguished'
explanatory trajectory taken in the emergence of 'life' from 'dead matter'.
But, if we accept functionalism, we seem to have a horse of another, and
most peculiar, colour. It seems, since there is no unique 'computational'
interpretation of the physical level of behaviour, that there can likewise
be no unique (and hence 'distinguished') set of self-relations associated
with any physical events that would in turn evoke a unique observer world.
(But a glimmer of comprehension may be igniting in the dim recesses of my
(putative) mind.) Perhaps when you say:
RS: 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.
DN: .......you mean that if functionalism is true, then though any of the
myriad interpretations of the physics might possibly evoke an observer world
(although presumably most would be incoherent), only interpretations we are
able to 'interact with', precisely because of the consistency of their
externalised behaviour with us and our environment, are relevant (causally
or otherwise) *to us*. And if this can be shown to converge on a *unique*
such interpretation for a given physical system, in effect this would then
satisfy my criterion of supervening on *some* distinguishable or unique set
of physical relations, even if we couldn't say what it was. So this, then,
would be the 'other mind' - and from this perspective, all the other
interpretations are 'imaginary' *for us*.
(As an aside, this reminds me of a story about Nixon's press secretary, Ron
Ziegler. The White House Press Corps, having just listened in exasperated
disbelief to the nth version of the 'official statement' on Watergate,
protested: "But Ron, what about all the other statements?" Ziegler replied:
"This is the operative statement; all the other statements are
inoperative." Perhaps the 'interaction model' we choose in effect selects
the corresponding 'operative consciousness' in terms of our world; all the
others are 'inoperative'.)
This has a very 'strange' feel to it (but perhaps this is appropriate). It
seems to follow that there can still in principle be a 'bridge' between a
functional (computationalist) account of a 'conscious' machine, and a
'physicalist' one - i.e. that either explanatory mode could account for the
same phenomena. Perhaps this is what you mean by 'downwards' as well as
'upwards' causation? So it then becomes an empirical project - i.e. that it
will eventually turn out - or not - that computationalism emerges as the
survivor in the competition to be the most Occamishly cogent account of the
relation between conscious phenomena and physics, and between a 'conscious
being' and its environment. Olympia and Klara type arguments, if I've
understood them, seem to exclude any *fixed* relationship between 'physical'
events and computational ones, but this appears not to be required by a
functionalist interpretation of physical events, if what I've argued above
makes sense. And 'physical', in this sense, needn't of course imply
anything like 'primitive matter'.
I hope, unlike Father William, you will not kick me downstairs at this
point, but bear with me in this further debugging session.
RS: 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.
Yes, sorry - I thought this might happen. I meant 'stable' in the sense of
a stable or unique association between an observer moment and physical
events with which it is correlated.
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
> > 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
> > 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
> > observers emerge from this matter-energy level, and that this
> > 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
> > would be a matter of establishing the means and modes of interaction
> > any new consciousness, because the same seamless underlying causal
> > 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
> > about the physical events in the computer, an arbitrary ascription, from
> > infinite possible set, of externally-established semantics to the
> > 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
> 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
> > 'physical' events: IOW these events, with their 'dual description',
> > constitute a single 'distinguished' *causal* sequence. By contrast,
> > 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
> > support some unique, distinguished process of *physical* emergence that
> > 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".
> A/Prof Russell Standish Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
> UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED]
> Australia http://www.hpcoders.com.au
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