On 3/14/2010 5:10 AM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
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?)

[Stathis]
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),
[Brent]
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.

I don't think that's so clear. Everett's relative state interpretation implies consciousness is not unitary but continually "splits" just as the states of other quantum systems. So while these counterfactual states (realized in the multiple worlds) may be significant for instantiating consciousness, I don't think it would follow that the consciousness'es thus instantiated would be aware of the splitting, i.e. decoherence. So if you are subject to a probabilistic event which would cause a change in your consciousness if it eventuated there would be a change in your consciousness *in another branch of the multiple worlds*. If your brain were constructed so there was no such chance (or it had much lower probability) what would be the difference? Maybe you would have faded qualia, e.g. if you were color blind you aren't aware of colors because there's zero probability of sensing them and your consciousness is slightly diminished by this because you aren't conscious of things being "not red" or "not blue".

Brent

[Stathis]
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.
[Brent]
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
impressive.



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