2010/1/11 Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>:

>> No, I'm at this point assuming only that consciousness is produced by
>> the physical process. We can assume for simplicity that the two
>> machines M1 and M2 have similar architecture and similar operating
>> systems. Once the program is loaded into M2 from the disc, S2 proceeds
>> exactly the same as it would have had the computation been allowed to
>> continue running on M1. Therefore, at least after the first few
>> milliseconds, the subjective content of S2 must be the same as it
>> would have been on the one machine. Could the subjective content be
>> different at the transition between S1 and S2 if the computation is
>> split up? If there is a subjective difference it won't be something
>> the subject can notice because, later in the course of S2, he can have
>> no memory of it.
> But if you're only assuming that consciousness is produced by the physical
> process then the process of downloading and uploading the microstates and
> shifting the data into registers in the CPU and memory could produce a
> difference in consciousness.  These are all computations too, done by the
> operating system.  And why can't there be memory of it in the sense that it
> effects some later conscious state?  There are traces of the transfer
> process left on the original computer, the disc, and the second computer.
> Some subsequent program could retrieve these traces, as is done in forensic
> cases.  If physical processes instantiate consciousness, why shouldn't these
> make a difference.

It's taken for granted even by unsophisticated end users of computers
that the hardware won't affect the computation. A calculator
application wouldn't be much use if it gave a different answer
depending on what brand of machine it was running on. It wouldn't be
difficult to write a program that takes input from the environment,
including information on what sort of hardware it's running on, and in
that case there could be a difference between running S1 and S2 on the
one machine and running them on separate machines. A real time clock,
for example, would alert the subject to the fact that there had been a
discontinuity, and S2 would then *not* proceed the same in both cases.
However, this would not happen automatically: it would have to be
specifically programmed, and the hardware would have to be capable of
feeding the appropriate input into the program.

>> It also can't be a difference that would disrupt the
>> completion of a task or thought that requires continuity of
>> consciousness spanning S1-S2, since again the subject cannot have any
>> evidence that such a disruption occurred.
> Unless we have a theory of how consciousness is related to the physical
> computation I don't think we can conclude that.  We already know that
> subliminal perceptions can affect conscious thoughts - so why not subliminal
> memories.

The theory is that if the computation is the same then the
consciousness is the same, regardless of what hardware it is being
implemented on. If you don't accept this then you don't accept
computationalism, for it is difficult to imagine a more drastic
hardware change than that involved in going from a biological brain to
a digital computer.

Stathis Papaioannou
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