On Nov 22, 2008, at 7:26 AM, Telmo Menezes wrote:
> Ok, but what if consciousness is a computational process that
> potentially depends on the entire state of the universe? Let's suppose
> for example that quantum particles are the fundamental building
> blocks, i.e. the hardware, and that consciousness is a computational
> process that emerges from their interactions. We still have MEC+MAT,
> and due to quantum entanglement, any quantum particle in the universe
> can potentially interfere in the consciousness computation. How can
> you store Bruno's film in such a universe?

This is why I prefer to cast these thought experiments in terms of  
finite cellular automata. All of the issues you mention go away. (One  
can argue that finite cellular automata can't contain conscious  
beings, but that's just a rejection of MEC, which we're supposed to be  
keeping.)

I'm not entirely sure I understand the details of Bruno's Movie-Graph  
(yet), so I don't know if it's equivalent to the following thought  
experiment:

Let's say that we run a computer program that allocates a very large  
two-dimensional array, fills it with a special Initial State (which is  
hard-coded into the program), and then executes the rules of Conway's  
Life on the array for a certain number of iterations. Let's say that  
the resulting "universe" contains creatures that any garden-variety  
mechanist would agree are fully conscious. Let's say that we run the  
universe for at least enough iterations to allow the creatures to move  
around, say a few things, experience a few things, etc. Finally, let's  
say that we store the results of all of our calculations in a (much  
larger) area of memory, so that we can look up what each bit did at  
each tick of the clock.

Now let's say that we "play back" the stored results of our  
calculations, like a movie. At each tick of the clock t, we just copy  
the bits from time t of our our stored memory into our two-dimensional  
array. There are no Conway's Life calculations going on here. We're  
just copying bits, one time-slice at a time, from our stored memory  
into our original grid. It is difficult for a mechanist to argue that  
any consciousness is happening here. It's functionally equivalent to  
just printing out each time-slice onto a (huge) piece of paper, and  
flipping through those pages like a picture book and watching the  
"animated playback". It's hard for a mechanist to argue that this  
style of flipping pages in a picture book can create consciousness.

Now let's imagine that we compute the Conway's Life universe again -  
we load the Initial State into the grid, and then iteratively apply  
the Conway's Life rule to the grid. However, for some percentage of  
the cells in the grid, instead of looking at the neighboring cells and  
updating according to the Conway's Life rule, we instead just pull the  
data from the lookup table that we created in the previous run.

If we apply the Conway's Life rule to all the cells, it seems like the  
creatures in the grid ought to be conscious. If we don't apply the  
Life rule to any of the cells, but just pull the data from our  
previously-created lookup table, it seems like the creatures in the  
grid are not conscious. But if we apply the Life rule to half of the  
cells and pull the other half from the lookup table, there will  
(probably) be some creature in the grid who has half of the cells in  
its brain being computed by the Life rule, and half being pulled from  
the lookup table. What's the status of this creature's consciousness?

-- Kory



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