Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 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
> qualia-equivalent?

Doesn't this antinomy arise because we equivocate on "running Firefox".  Do we 
mean a causal chain of events in the computer according to a certain program 
specification or do we mean the appearance on the screen of the same thing that 
the causal chain would have produced?  We'd say "no" by the first meaning, but 
"yes" by the second.  Obviously, there the question is not black-and-white.  If 
the computer simply dropped a bit or two and miscolored a few pixels, no one 
would notice and no one would assert it wasn't running Firefox.  So really, 
we talk about "running Firefox" we are referring to a fuzzy, holistic process 
that admits of degrees.

I'm developing a suspicion of arguments that say "suppose by accident...".  If 
we say that the (putative) possibility of something happening "by accident" 
destroys the relevance of it happening as part of a causal chain, we are, in a 
sense, rejecting the concept of causal chains and relations - and not just in 
consciousness, as your Firefox example illustrates.

I wrote "putative" above because this kind of thought experiment hypothesizes 
events whose probability is infinitesimal.  If you take a finitist view, there 
is a lower bound to non-zero probabilities.

>> 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, 

It is still trivial in the sense that it could be said to instantiate all 
possible conscious worlds (at least up to some size limit).  Since we don't 
what is necessary to instantiate consciousness, this seems much more 
than saying the block of marble instantiates all computations - which we 
agree is true only in a trivial sense.

>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.

Yet this is directly contradicted by those specific instances in which 
consciousness is interrupted by disrupting the physical activity.

> 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,

This seems to me to be jumping to a conclusion by examining only one side of 
argument and, finding it flawed, embracing the contrary.  Abstract computations 
are atemporal and don't have to be generated.  So it amounts to saying that the 
physical world just IS in virtue of there being some mapping between the world 
and some computation.

> 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.

Of there's something wrong with the argument that functionalism implies 
consciousness isn't dependent on physical activity.  As Bruno points out 
"physical activity" is not so well defined at a fundamental level and neither 

Brent Meeker

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