2008/11/26 Kory Heath <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>:
> On Nov 24, 2008, at 5:40 PM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> The question turns on what is a computation and why it should have
>> magical properties. For example, if someone flips the squares on a
>> Life board at random and accidentally duplicates the Life rules does
>> that mean the computation is carried out?
> I would say no. But of course, the real question is, "Why does it
> matter?" If I'm reading you correctly, you're taking the view that
> it's the pattern of bits that matters, not what created it (or
> "caused" it, or "computed it", etc.)

Yes. Suppose one of the components in my computer is defective but,
with incredible luck, is outputting the appropriate signals due to
thermal noise. Would it then make sense to say that the computer isn't
"really" running Firefox, but only pretending to do so, reproducing
the Firefox behaviour but lacking the special Firefox

> It would help me if I had a clearer idea of how you view
> consciousness. I assume that, for you, if someone flips the squares on
> a Life board at random and creates the expected "chaos", there's no
> consciousness there, but that there are certain configurations that
> could arise (randomly) that you would consider conscious. I assume
> that these patterns would show some kind of regularity - some kind of
> law-like behavior.

In the first instance, yes. But then the problem arises that under a
certain interpretation, the chaotic patterns could also be seen as
implementing any given computation. A common response to this is that
although it may be true in a trivial sense, as it is true that a block
of marble contains every possible statue, it is useless to define
something as a computation unless it can process information in a way
that interacts with its environment. This seems reasonable so far, but
what if the putative computation is of a virtual world with conscious
observers? The trivial sense in which such a computation can be said
to be hiding in chaos is no longer trivial, as I see no reason why the
consciousness of these observers should be contingent on the
possibility of interaction with the environment containing the
substrate of their implementation. My conclusion from this is that
consciousness, in general, is not dependent on the orderly physical
activity which is essential for the computations that we observe.
Rather, consciousness must be a property of the abstract computation
itself, which leads to the conclusion that the physical world is
probably a virtual reality generated by the big computer in Platonia,
since there is no basis for believing that there is a concrete
physical world separate from the necessarily existing virtual one.

> It's not easy for me to explain why I think it matters what kind of
> process (or in Platonia, what kind of abstract computation) generated
> that order. But it's also not easy for me to understand the
> alternative view. During those stretches of time when the random field
> of bits is creating a pattern that you would call conscious, what do
> you *mean* when you say it's conscious? By definition, you can't mean
> anything about how it's reacting to its environment, or that it's
> doing something "because of" something else, etc.

I know what I mean by consciousness, being intimately associated with
it myself, but I can't explain it.

>> I think there is a partial zombie problem regardless of whether
>> Unification or Duplication is accepted.
> Can you elaborate on this? What partial zombie problem do you see that
> Unification doesn't address?

If by "Unification" you mean the idea that two identical brains with
identical input will result in only one consciousness, I don't see how
this solves the conceptual problem of partial zombies. What would
happen if an identical part of both brains were replaced with a
non-concious but otherwise identically functioning equivalent?

> And do you think that the move away from
> "physical reality" to "mathematical reality" solves that problem? If
> so, how?

The Fading Qualia argument proves functionalism, assuming that the
physical behaviour of the brain is computable (some people like Roger
Penrose dispute this). Functionalism then leads to the conclusion that
consciousness isn't dependent on physical activity, as discussed in
the recent threads. So, either functionalism is wrong, or
consciousness resides in the Platonic realm.

Stathis Papaioannou

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