On 14 March 2010 08:43, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:

(BTW the formatting for your last few posts looks odd when I read them
with Gmail. Would it be possible to revert to plain text?)

> Does that matter here? I thought the argument was that if system A is
> capable of behaviour that system B is not capable, then A has
> different/greater consciousness than B even when we consider the case
> where A and B are performing the same activity. A and B could be
> identical except that given a particular tricky question Q, A has
> access to a plugin module A' that will allow it to work out the
> answer, while B does not. For all inputs other than Q, A and B behave
> identically. Now I agree that A is more *intelligent* than B, if
> intelligence is the ability to solve problems, since A can solve one
> more problem than B. Intelligence involves potential, like specifying
> a car's top speed, so the counterfactuals here are relevant. But to
> say that A and B differ in their consciousness even when they have
> inputs other than Q (and therefore go through the same internal state
> changes),

> But they don't.  If A has more possible states then, per QM, it, with some
> probability, goes through them too.

Are you suggesting that consciousness is affected by some kind of
interference effect between the possible states? If that is so, it
should be affected not only by the possible states of the brain, which
is not so easy to change, but also by the possible inputs. In other
words if you are subjected to a probabilistic event which would cause
a change in your consciousness if it eventuated, there would be a
change in your consciousness even if it did not eventuate. This is an
experiment that can easily be done - that is done by everyone many
times a day - and it does not support the theory that counterfactuals
affect consciousness.

> Our consciousness is instantiated by a machine that interacts with its
> environment and has a complex, but consistent, response to
> environmental stimuli. This allows one conscious entity to observe
> another conscious entity, and postulate that it is conscious. If
> consciousnesses were instantiated all around us by random processes
> (or even by nothing at all) they would not be of the sort that can be
> observed at the level of the substrate of their implementation, which
> is why they are not observed. So yes, it's all compatible with our
> physical observations.

> I'm not clear on what you mean by "it" in "it's all compatible with our
> physical observations.  You mean that everything, including rocks, are
> conscious but we can't recognize them as such because their consciousness is
> so different?  Or maybe it's not different but their interaction with the
> world is too different?

Saying any object is conscious if you look at it the right way is just
another way of saying that consciousness is not a physical property of
the object: the rock won't be rendered "unconscious" if we blow it up
since the relevant computations could just as easily be ascribed to
the blown up atoms. So what we're talking about is Platonic
implementations of consciousness, and those we can't interact with. We
can only interact with the sort of consciousness that exhibits
intelligent behaviour, generated by brains and perhaps computers.
Superficially this seems to solve the empirical problem, albeit at the
cost of extra metaphysical baggage. However, it doesn't solve the
scientific problem because there is then the question of how do we
know that our own consciousness is one of those specially privileged
to be generated in the physical world and not in Platonia? We don't;
and in fact if it is possible that consciousness can be generated in
Platonia there is no basis for postulating an ontologically separate
real world at all - it could all be a virtual reality generated in
Platonia. But there is then the problem of how we find ourselves, as
you say, in a nomologically consistent universe. What we need is a
derivation of the observed physical laws from the principle "all
possible computations are necessarily implemented". That would be

Stathis Papaioannou

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