On Sun, Jan 17, 2010 at 6:31 PM, Rex Allen <rexallen...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sun, Jan 17, 2010 at 12:50 AM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >
> >
> > On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 4:51 PM, Rex Allen <rexallen...@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >>
> >> On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 1:59 PM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>
> >> wrote:
> >> > Rex Allen wrote:
> >> >>
> >> >> What caused it to exist?
> >> >>
> >> >
> >> > Who said it needs a cause?
> >>
> >> Why this reality as opposed to nothing?  Given the principle of
> >> sufficient reason, wouldn't "nothingness" be the expected state of
> >> things?
> >
> > Imagine you and I are at two ends of a computer terminal, and you know I
> am
> > about to send you a message.  The message encoding is such that there are
> > two parts, where the first part indicates the message length, and the
> second
> > the message.
> > Notice that before I send any information, the possibility for the
> message I
> > might send is unlimited.  You know neither the size nor the content.
> > As you begin to receive my message, information I send you isn't giving
> you
> > anything new, or creating any new possibility, instead it is restricting
> > that possibility, telling you what the message is not from among all the
> > infinite possibilities it might have been.
> > It might be clearer to see how this works considering the multi-verse.
>  If I
> > tell you I have a cup on my desk, but not what color it is, you can
> safely
> > assume copies of you exist in various branches where it could be any
> color,
> > blue, red, yellow, etc.  But if I then tell you it is indeed red, then
> that
> > just restricted possibility.
> > Now apply this concept to the question of why the universe exists, why
> > something rather than nothing.  What is simpler, nothing existing, or no
> > restrictions on what exists?  Using that message transfer example, to
> send
> > you an empty message requires I send you 1 bit, it would be the bit '0',
> > indicating the message is zero-length, followed by empty 0-bit long
> message.
> >  However, what if I sent no message at all?  That would take 0 bits, and
> all
> > possibilities remain open.  Think of it as: is it easier for God to
> command
> > that nothing exists, or easier for him to say nothing at all?
> > This idea is explained in greater detail in Russel Standish's "Theory of
> > Nothing".
> So in this view conscious exists as a fundamental entity?  Or
> conscious experience is caused by something more fundamental?  Or it
> supervenes on something more fundamental?
> That of course is my core question...how does something unconscious
> (matter, numbers, etc.) give rise to conscious experience?

When I was younger I used to be dualist.  I thought: a person could be
happy, a person is made out of atoms, but how can atoms be happy?  But it is
easy to get lost in a subject if you analyze it from the wrong level.
 Consider how hard topics in biology such as cell division, or digestion
would be to understand if one attempted to analyze it at the atomic level.

Rather than asking how matter, or numbers give rise to conscious experience,
I think it is better to ask what kinds of systems are conscious, and what
properties of those systems is it that makes them conscious.  Complicating
the matter, is human experience is extraordinarily rich, your eyes take in
gigabits of data every second, and it is processed by trillions of neurons
and connections between them.

Therefore I think it helps to simplify consciousness as much as possible.
 Close your eyes in a quiet place, and pinch yourself, concentrating on the
experience of that pain and how it really feels.  Is the feeling of pain
anything more than simple knowledge coupled with a distracting compulsion to
try to stop it?  What does pain really feel like and how is the feeling
different from a lighter pinch which does not cause pain?

Imagine an intelligent being with a really simple eye, it can only tell if
it is in the presence of light or not.  When it is one group of neurons
fires and this knowledge is transfered to other parts of the brain so the
being knows and can talk about whether or not it is in light.  What would it
say if you asked it about its experience, what it is like to see light vs.
seeing dark.  Likely it wouldn't be able to communicate the difference, or
what it feels like, any more than you can describe to me how red is
different from green, it just knows they are different.

Now give this being a million such eyes, each one representing light or
darkness in a 1000x1000 grid, you could now ask the being about the status
of any of the million pixels it can see, as to the status, is it black or
white?  But with this ability the being still wouldn't be able to see as we
see, another layer of processing is needed to apply these states to a field
which could allow the being to talk about patches of lightness or darkness
in their field of vision, again this is simply knowledge, but summarized to
a simpler form to talk about.  Some people with brain damage are at this
level ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_agnosia ) so another level of
processing must be required to do things such as object recognition, and so
forth.  Models of how brains process visual data have already been reverse
engineered in fly brains (
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/11/fly-eyes/ ).  With object
recognition, you are now at a point where you could ask the being to
identify objects you hold in front of it.  If it could do so successfully,
it must be having some sort of conscious experience, do you agree?
 Otherwise any human could be a zombie, able to respond and act like a human
but have no internal world.

Getting back to your original question, of how matter or numbers
become conscious, I would say it happens when matter or numbers becomes
configured in a way to process and and possibly distribute information to
other information processing areas.  Where processing is defined as applying
some function or algorithm to some input.  Whether any particular function,
or certain type of recursiveness is required, I couldn't say, but it does
seem to me that consciousness can arise from any information processing
system, regardless of the substrate or implementation, be it a computer
processor, a network of nerve cells, or Chinese people with radios.

> You can just assert that it does as a brute fact, but there's nothing
> in my concept of matter or numbers that would lead me to believe that
> it should.  So, there's an explanatory gap.
> My response to Brent a few minute ago I think covers most of this better.
> >
> >>
> >> But, given that reality exists, why are things this way as opposed to
> >> some other way?
> >>
> >
> > If we follow from the assumption we were led to above, that everything
> > existing is simpler than nothing existing then the laws of physics are
> > determined by virtue of your ability to observe the universe around you.
> >  Other observers exist in other universes, with different physical laws,
> and
> > also rightly ask why these laws?  The Anthropic principle holds that all
> > observers find themselves in environments compatible with their
> existence,
> > so these laws are what they are because they allowed conscious observers
> to
> > evolve to become aware.
> If the observer "finds" himself in an environment, then it is
> obviously compatible with his existence.  He exists there after all.
> Even if (to our way of thinking at least) it logically makes no sense
> that he could.
> Assuming computationalism, it seems possible to write a simulation
> that would contain an observer who experiences himself in a chaotic
> nonsensical reality.  So if we can generate this experience that way,
> then this would seem to be part of the "everything" that exists.

I am sure such chaotic OM's exist, and if you one were to look at all
possible unique OMs, the chaotic, white noise random ones should far exceed
the number of unique ordered ones.  The fact that we happen to be
experiencing order might be taken as evidence that ordered, evolved OMs
occur more often than the random nonsensical ones.

> What precludes this kind of observer existing?  You only mention
> evolved consciousness in stable universes, but why not universes with
> inconsistent nonsensical laws where observers come into being via
> random processes, "boltzmann brain"-style?

Nothing precludes it.

> >
> >>
> >> "St. Augustine observed that if someone were to stand barefoot on the
> >> beach for all eternity, then his footmark on the sand would be eternal
> >> too, but nonetheless it would still have its cause – the foot making
> >> it." -  M. Heller, Ultimate Explanations of the Universe
> >>
> >>
> >
> > Concepts such as time, and cause and effect only exist to those inside
> the
> > universe.  Outside of the universe it would be possible to have a 4-d
> view
> > of the the entire evolution of the universe.  In this view it would be a
> > static block.  Think of characters in a movie, with things changing frame
> by
> > frame, but if the characters could jump outside the movie they are in
> they
> > would see they exist on a fixed DVD, with all frames simultaneously
> > existing.  They would then see that a question such as what started the
> > movie playing from the beginning makes no sense, however it would still a
> > legitimate question to ask where did this DVD come from?
> Seems like a legitimate question to me.  "Where the DVD came from" is
> just a way of asking why it exists.  Though whether they ever manage
> to ask the question "inside" the DVD depends entirely on what data is
> encoded on the DVD.  They have no "choice" in the matter.
> Either the DVD has data that represents someone asking such a
> question, or it doesn't.  It just is the way it is.
> >>
> >> Further, to quote Roger Scruton on the same topic:
> >>
> >> “Suppose we were to accept the big bang hypothesis concerning the
> >> origin of the universe. Only a short-sighted person would think that
> >> we have then answered the question of how the world began. For what
> >> caused the bang? Any answer will suppose that something already
> >> existed. So the hypothesis cannot explain the origin of things. The
> >> quest for an origin leads us forever backwards into the past. But
> >> either it is unsatisfiable- in which case, how does cosmology explain
> >> the existence of the world? - or it comes to rest in the postulation
> >> of a causa sui - in which case, we have left the scientific question
> >> unanswered and taking refuge in theology. Science itself pushes us
> >> towards the antinomy, by forcing us always to the limits of nature.”
> >>
> >
> > This question is more akin to asking why does the DVD exist?  The best
> > answer I have found comes from extending arithmetical realism, the idea
> that
> > things such as numbers exist, without cause, timelessly.  One school of
> > thought believes that numbers are simply ideas and human inventions, but
> I
> > disagree.  There are an infinite number of facts one could state about
> the
> > number 3, yet of course no single mind in this universe could hold all
> those
> > facts.  Should that imply that facts which haven't been in someone's head
> > are not true, or that numbers too big for anyone to have thought of don't
> > exist?
> > This is something you will have to intuitively accept, but if you do it
> > answers the question of how things can simply exist, without being
> caused.
> >  Let's go with the assumption that nothing existed, not even numbers?
> >  Wouldn't "Nothing" still have properties?  Such as nothing contains 0
> > things.  Well once 0 exists, the others automatically have to.  What
> meaning
> > does 0 have without the context of 1, or 2?
> > If mathematical objects such as the whole numbers exist, would more
> complex
> > objects also exist?  Such as lines, triangles, hypercubes, Turing
> machines?
> >  If a 4-d mathematical object can simply exist, what about a mathematical
> > structure, or function indistinguishable from the universe we find
> ourselves
> > in?
> I think these things exist only as aspects of conscious thought, not
> independent of it.
> So in an earlier thread Bruno said:  "If you believe that the
> primality of 17 does not depend on you, then you can explain why
> matter and consciousness is an unavoidable consequence of + and *."
> To which my response was:
> I would say that anyone who makes the same starting assumptions and
> follows the same rules of inference would conclude that 17 is prime.
> But the concepts of 17 and prime do not exist independently of
> context.  I'll go with Meeker on this one:  "Mathematics is just
> precise expression and inference to avoid contradiction."

If this universe (or your consciousness) can exist independently of any
context, then why not much simpler objects such as integers?

> >>
> >> Isn't it meaningless to speak of predicting anything about a random
> >> process?
> >>
> > I don't think so.  Poker players and insurance companies, for example,
> live
> > or die by being able to successfully analyze and predict random
> processes.
> I'll just reproduce my response to Brent on this point here:
> So I started with the observation that "Given randomness, what is the
> significance of prediction generated from within the random system?"
> To which you responded:  "That your method of prediction will yield
> the right relative frequencies."
> To which I then responded: "Isn't it meaningless to speak of
> predicting anything about a random process?"
> A better response on my part would have been:  "that's an option
> available to you from OUTSIDE the random system, not from within the
> system, where your choices are by definition random".
> FURTHER to take Jason's example of poker players, sure you could write
> a card game that used a source of "true" randomness to shuffle the
> deck.  And since a deck only has 52 cards, there is only a certain
> number of permutations that can result in the hands dealt.  Poker has
> rules about the values of the various permutations.  The rules
> themselves aren't random.  The cards in the deck aren't random.  Only
> the shuffling is random.
> Given that there are "determined" aspects of the game, you can make
> predictions about the overall process.  BUT you can't make predictions
> about exactly which card out of the 52 available will be dealt first
> from the deck for a single hand of poker...this part is fully
> controlled by the random source that is used to determine the shuffled
> order of the deck.
> So.  I think this time your point is vitiated.
> >>
> >> It seems to me that nothing is lost in concluding that consciousness
> >> is fundamental, and that science is only about constructing plausible
> >> narratives that are consistent with past observations…not about an
> >> unexplained and inexplicable independently existing world made of
> >> mysterious substances referred to as “matter”.
> >
> > I suppose the only issue with assuming consciousness is fundamental would
> be
> > why are we perceiving ourselves to be in a world with simple mathematical
> > equations defining its laws, why do we seem to be creatures that evolved
> > from simpler ones, etc.  This, I think, is evidence that mathematical
> > objects (which observers call universes) are fundamental.  Otherwise we
> > would might expect to be incorporeal entities in a featureless plane of
> > existence, or worse, consciousness consisting of complete random/noise.
> Given that these things can be represented mathematically (seems
> feasible at least...surely we could write a computer simulation that
> represents something like that), I'm not sure how the adoption of
> mathematical objects as fundamental precludes them.

I think they too exist, but most life that exists in the everything comes
into being in universes with more or less random initial conditions where
order is evolved, rather than life or consciousness itself existing in the
initial conditions.  Do you think the Earth was created 10 seconds ago?  In
some universes, the initial conditions were the universe as we knew it 10
seconds ago, where evidence of a consistent history, and everyone's memories
seem to line up with the present, but such order in as the initial condition
is extremely rare.

> How far are the conscious experiences of schizophrenics or Alzheimer
> patients from some existence like this?
> Given that so much is representable via mathematics, I don't know you
> can avoid admitting the existence of all sorts of crazy white-rabbit
> experiences.
> Though it seems that all available theories have this problem to some
> degree.  Strange observed behaviors in some branches of the universal
> wavefunction in the many worlds interpretation.  Boltzmann Brain
> scenarios given large amounts of time.  Infinite space giving rise to
> all possible configurations of matter (even very unlikely ones).  Etc.
Rare things certainly occur in the everything, but they are outnumbered by
the more common.

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