On Nov 20, 2008, at 3:33 PM, Brent Meeker wrote:
> Doesn't the question go away if it is nomologically impossible?

I'm sort of the opposite of you on this issue. You don't like to use  
the term "logically possible", while I don't like to use the term  
"nomologically impossible". I don't see the relevance of nomological  
possibility to any philosophical question I'm interested in. For  
anything that's nomologically impossible, I can just imagine a  
cellular automaton or some other computational or mathematical  
"physics" in which that thing is nomologically possible. And then I  
can just imagine physically instantiating that universe on one of our  
real computers. And then all of my philosophical questions still apply.

I can certainly imagine objections to that viewpoint. But life is  
short. My point was that, since you already agreed that it's  
nomologically possible for a random robot to outwardly behave like a  
conscious person for some indefinite period of time, we can sidestep  
the (probably interesting) discussion we might have about nomological  
vs. logical possibility in this case.

> Does a random number generator have computational functionality just  
> in case it
> (accidentally) computes something?  I would say it does not.  But  
> referring the
> concept of zombie to a capacity, rather than observed behavior,  
> makes a
> difference in Bruno's question.

I think that Dennett explicitly refers to computational capacities  
when talking about consciousness (and zombies), and I follow him. But  
Dennett's point is that computational capacity is always, in  
principle, observed behavior - or, at least, behavior that can be  
observed. In the case of Lucky Alice, if you had the right tools, you  
could examine the neurons and see - based on how they were behaving! -  
that they were not causally connected to each other. (The fact that a  
neuron is being triggered by a cosmic ray rather than by a neighboring  
neuron is an observable part of its behavior.) That observed behavior  
would allow you to conclude that this brain does not have the  
computational capacity to compute the answers to a math test, or to  
compute the trajectory of a ball.

> I would regard it as an empirical question about how the robots  
> brain worked.
> If the brain processed perceptual and memory data to produce the  
> behavior, as in
> Jason's causal relations, I would say it is conscious in some sense  
> (I think
> there are different kinds of consciousness, as evidenced by Bruno's  
> list of
> first-person experiences).  If it were a random number generator, i.e.
> accidental behavior, I'd say not.

I agree. But why do you say you're puzzled about how to answer Bruno's  
question about Lucky Alice? I think you just answered it - for you,  
Lucky Alice wouldn't be conscious. (Or do you think that Lucky Alice  
is different than a robot with a random-number-generator in its head?  
I don't.)

-- Kory


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