Jason Resch wrote:
> I think in regards to conscious, you can't have one without the other.
>  Both information and computation are needed, as the computation
> imparts meaning to the information, and the information accumulates
> meaning making each computation and its result more meaningful.
> If I sent you an arbitrary binary string, it would have no meaning
> unless you either knew in advance how to interpret it or how it was
> produced.  Either interpretation or understanding of how it was
> produced can be described with computer programs, but without that
> foreknowledge the binary string is meaningless because there would be
> an infinite number of ways to interpret that string.
> To understand how information "accumulates" through successive a
> computations, consider how today's most common processors can only
> consider 32-bit numbers at a time, yet like any Turing machine they
> are nonetheless capable of performing any computation, including those
> involving numbers much larger than can be expressed in 32-bits.
> Consider what the neurons do (at least artificial ones), essentially
> they only multiply and add (multiply the strength of a received signal
> by the connection strength, then sum the received signals to determine
> if they met the threshold to fire).  At a low level the additions
> might correspond to the intensity of one color for one pixel in a
> visual field, say the brightness of red.  Another neuron might then
> sum the intensities of red, green, and blue colors to arrive at a
> color for that pixel, while another one aggregates a collection of
> those results into a field of colors.  Finally this field of colors
> might be processed by an object identification part of the neural
> network to identify objects.  Whether or not an object is identified
> as a cat or a dog, might ultimately be determined by the firing of
> just one neuron, yet at every stage the same basic computation is done
> (multiplication and addition).  The only difference is the consequence
> of the computation at each stage; how it is ultimately interpreted by
> the next level.
> So the question comes down to where does the consciousness lie: during
> the computation of information, the computed result, or in the
> computations upon the computed results.  Maybe it requires a loop of
> such hierarchies as Douglas Hofstadter suggests.  I don't have an
> answer but it is something I too wonder about.
> Jason

I think "meaning" ultimately must be grounded in action.  That's why 
it's hard to see where the meaning lies in a computation, something that 
is just the manipulation of strings.  People tend to say the meaning is 
in the interpretation, noting that the same string of 1s and 0s can have 
different interpretations.  But what constitutes interpretation?  I 
think it is interaction with the world.  If you say, "What's a cat?"  
and I point and say, "That."  then I've interpreted "cat" (perhaps 
wrongly if I point to a dog).


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