On 20 Apr 2009, at 14:50, Brent Meeker wrote:

> 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).

A computation is a sequence of numbers (or of strings, or of  
combinators, etc.) as resulting by an interpretation. For such an  
interpretation, you don't need a "world", only an "interpreter" that  
is a universal system, like elementary arithmetic for example. If you  
invoke a world you will run in the usual "physical supervenience"  
trouble. If you abstract from the interpreter you run into the  
confusion between a computation and a description of a computation. It  
is useful to fix once and for all the universal system. Then a  
computation can then be defined by a sequence of numbers, but there is  
a implicit universal system behind. The concept of information could  
be a little too much quantitative and static in this setting, and  
plays probably a bigger role in the notion of the content of specific  
consciousness experiences.
The key notion to define "computation" if the notion of Universal  
system or machine.



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