On Nov 22, 2008, at 6:24 PM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Similarly, whenever we
> interact with a computation, it must be realised on a physical
> computer, such as a human brain. But there is also the abstract
> computation, a Platonic object. It seems that consciousness, like
> threeness, may be a property of the Platonic object, and not of its
> physical realisation. This allows resolution of the apparent paradoxes
> we have been discussing.

For reasons that are (mostly) independent of all of these thought  
experiments, I suspect that there's something deeply correct about the  
idea that an "abstract computation" can be the substrate for  
consciousness. Or at least, I think there's something deeply correct  
about replacing the idea of "physical existence" with "mathematical  
facts-of-the-matter". This immediately eliminates weird questions like  
"why is there something instead of nothing", which seem unanswerable  
in the context of the normal view of physical existence.

But what I'm realizing is that I still don't have a clear conception  
of how consciousness is supposed to relate to these Platonic  
computations. (Or maybe I don't have a clear enough picture of what  
counts as a "Platonic computation".) In a way, it feels to me as  
though I still have "partial zombie" problems, even in Platonia.

Lets imagine a "block universe" in Platonia - a 3D block of cells  
filled (in some order that we specify) with the binary digits of PI.  
Somewhere within this block, there are (I think) regions which look  
"as if" they're following the rules of Conway's Life, and some of  
those regions contain creatures that look "as if" they're conscious.  
Are they actually conscious? The move away from "physical existence"  
to "mathematical existence" (what I've called "mathematical  
physicalism") doesn't immediately help me answer this question.

The answer I *used* to give was that it doesn't matter, because no  
matter what "accidental order" you find in Platonia, you also find the  
"real order". In other words, if you find some portion of the digits  
of PI that "seems to be" following the rules of Conway's Life, then  
there is also (of course) a Platonic object that represents the  
"actual" computations that the digits of PI "seem to be" computing.  
This is, essentially, Bostrom's "Unification" in the context of  
Platonia. It doesn't matter whether or not "accidental order" in the  
digits of PI can be viewed as conscious, because either way, we know  
the "real order" exists in Platonia as well, and multiple  
"instantiations" of the same pain in Platonia wouldn't result in  
multiple pains.

I'm uncomfortable with the philosophical vagueness of some of this. At  
the very least, I want a better handle on why Unification is correct  
and Duplication is not in the context of Platonia (or why that  
question is confused, if it is).

-- Kory


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