Dear Bruno,


From: Bruno Marchal 
Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2011 1:23 PM
Subject: Re: A comment on Mauldin's paper “Computation and Consciousness”

On 25 Jan 2011, at 15:47, Stephen Paul King wrote:

      SPK: The supervenience thesis is separate from the Turing thesis and 
Mauldin does a good job in distinguishing them.
Just to be clear, what Maudlin call "supervenience thesis" is what I called 
"physical supervenience thesis", to distinguish it from the computationalist 
supervenience thesis.
The computationalist supervenience thesis is basically what remains when we 
keep comp, and understand that the Phys. Sup. thesis has to go away in the comp 

    My claim is that we can push physical supervenience far into the background 
but in the cases where interaction between entities occurs it cannot be 
eliminated entirely. My proposal is that for interactions we must have both MEC 
and MAT, as MEC or MAT taken alone provide insufficient support for 
supervenience. This is what I see Maudlin’s argument proving.

  SPK: The problem that I see is in the properties of physicality that are 
assumed in Mauldin’s argument. It is one thing to not be dependent on what 
particular physical structure a computation can be run on (assuming a realistic 
supervenience), it is another thing entirely to say that a Turing machine can 
be “run” without the existence of any physical hardware at all.

Well, in the branch ~MEC v ~MAT, Maudlin seems to prefer MAT, so he seems with 
you on this, I think.

    No, I am claiming that for interactions between entities (and the models 
thereof) we must have MEC and MAT. In situations, like in most of your theory, 
interactions are not a factor thus your thesis follows smoothly in that frame. 
This is why I constantly ding you for being solipsistic. I would hope that you 
would do the same for me if I where equivalently in error. One must be able to 
defend one’s beliefs. Judge and prepare to be judged.

  SPK: I am trying to make this distinction and trying to fix this problem that 
I found in the supervenience thesis within Mauldin’s argument. He does point 
out that there are contrafactuals that must have some physical instantiation. 
We see this on page 411 where he wrote:

  “The only physical requirement that a system must met in order to instantiate 
a certain machine table are that (1) there must be at least as many physically 
distinguishable states of the system as there are machine states in the table, 
(2) the system must be capable of reacting to and changing the state of the 
tape, and (3) there must be enough physical structure to support the 
subjunctive connections specified in the table.”

      It is in the subjunctive connections that we see the contrafactuals 
expressed. If one’s model of physical reality does not allow for the necessary 
subjunctive connections to be implemented then the supervenience thesis would 
fail independent of the Turing thesis. 

    So if you agree with this then you must also agree that models that do not 
allow the necessary structure to support the subjunctive connections will fail 
to allow for consciousness to supervene. I am arguing that COMP +AR is 
insufficient for supervenience of consciousness other than in a 
crypto-solipsistic mode that is indistinguishable from a conscious state whose 
content has no information, i.e. is at best randomness. Such modes of 
consciousness would be of course included in the class of states of 
consciousness but we cannot identify our states of consciousness solely with 
them. Without the existence of multiple incarnations of mind to mutually 
restrain each other, the mind will have no means to limit what it is not and 
thus would be, by definition, at least insane. (This is one situation that 
results from Travis Garrett’s idea of Observers. I am still researching my 
comment on his paper 
    If there is no separable means to implement a mind, or at least the 
computable contents thereof, then there is no way to define a local converging 
measure of information. MAT gives us that means and thus I claim that some form 
of physical supervenience is necessary (but not sufficient). Hitoshi Kitada has 
written extensively of this possibility:

  SPK: My point is that we need to be careful about what exactly do we mean by 
“causally inactive piece of matter”. If there is material present within a 
physical system that does not affect the 3 requirements above then surely we 
can agree with Mauldin’s claim, but if there is a problem with the faithfulness 
of the model of what physicality involves, then this must be fixed if possible. 
This is why I say that there is a bit of a straw man in his argument. 

Maudlin should have said: "causally inactive piece of matter *relevant* for the 
computation. This is what I did, and it makes the argument independent of the 
counterfactual re-instantiation. The movie-graph is simpler with that respect. 
But this can lead to some ambiguity too.

    Bruno, did you see the implication of quantum entanglement is that any form 
of interaction between the entities in our world of experience will make it 
very difficult or even impossible to determine what parts of matter are 
*relevant* and what parts are not. See: 
for some related ideas. Sure, we can avoid this by constructing solipsistic 
theories, but these are just as self-stultifying as all other solipsistic ideas.

  SPK:     Mathematical structures do not “do” anything, they merely exist, if 
at all! We can use verbs to describe relations between nouns but that does not 
change the fact that nouns are nouns and not verbs. The movie graph is a neat 
trick in that is abstracts out the active process of organizing the information 
content of the individual frames and the order of their placement in the graph, 
but that some process had to be involved to perform the computation of the 
content and ordering cannot be removed, it is only pushed out of the field of 
view. This is why I argue that we cannot ignore the computational complexity 
problem that exist in any situation where we are considering a optimal 
configuration that is somehow selected from some set or ensemble.
I don't see how this would change anything in the argument, unless you 
presuppose consciousness is not locally Turing emulable, to start with.

    I am satisfied with your argument with regard to the idea of  
“consciousness is not locally Turing emulable” but I do believe that the 
content of any particular “moment of consciousness” is Turing emulable modulo 
sufficient computational resources. This is how bisimulation between minds is 
possible but only for finite and bounded Observer moments. I thus agree with 
your argument up to the point that we disagree.   Whether or not Consciousness 
is Turing emulable is not the issue, it is whether Turing emulation is even a 
sound concept in an ontology where some local physical reality “does not 
exist”. This is a subtle distinction that I am claiming.
    We seem to disagree about the nature of Time, but I think that this 
disagreement flows from the differences in focus that we have in our 
modelizations. I am interested in interactions between entities, you, it seems, 
are not. I wish I was wrong in this belief. In my thinking Time flow vanishes 
in the limit of the vanishing of differences but is real locally for entities 
such as us. I distinguish “being in eternity” from “Eternal Being” and as I 
have stated previously take Becoming as the essence of existence, for being 
*necessarily possible* cannot be static. To be static requires definition and 
bounds and thus differentiation. Since the possibility of making distinctions 
vanishes for Existence itself, it cannot be defined or named. It has no outside.
     SPK: Another question that I am asking is what relation does information 
have with matter. We had a paper that seems to propose that information is 
physical and then goes on to make some strange claims. 
OK. And the problem with the word physical is that it means different things in 
different settings. The main confusion is between fundamentally physical, or 
material, with a conception of primary matter, or it means "related to this or 
that physical theory" based on abstract mathematical relations.

    OK, let us focus carefully on this problem! We have no evidence for and 
plenty of sound arguments against the idea that existence at its primitive 
level (assuming a well founded ontology) is material, pace Garrett, but that 
does not equal a proof of any sort that MAT does not exist. 
    Please recall that existence, per say, is not a “property” that an entity 
can *have*. Existence is only supervening upon its possible forms of expression 
not on the chance that such are observed as there will always exist entities 
that are not yet within the class of entities that the UD has already 
dovetailed upon. This follows from the fact that the UD must run eternally (per 
UDA) and all of the proofs of Gödel's incompleteness.)
    What I am arguing for is that we need a finite form of MAT for our models 
to be sound. We can show that this finite form of MAT is degenerate and can 
even vanish in some limit (such as in a Russellian neutral monism where the 
differences between mind and body vanish because the ability to distinguish 
between them vanishes), but necessary at our level of expressiveness it is 

  SPK: We also had a recent paper that discusses how “information is converted 
into free energy” by a Maxwell Demon-type feedback system. It seems to me that 
there is a lot of confusion about what relationship there is between 
information and matter, so my inquisitiveness could be seen as an attempt to 
make sense of this mess.
And the word "matter" is similarly ambiguous, and never defined, except by 
Aristotle which provides the "& Dp" idea, implicitly used by the Platonist 
Plotinus to define matter in the way used by the self-observing machine.
Matter is what is indeterminate, and oppose to intelligibility (Bp). It is of 
the type ~Bp, that is D#. This is coherent with the idea that a physics is, 
before all thing, a probability or plausibility calculus. Cf also Timaeus 
(Plato) bastard calculus, and the Kripke semantics of "Dp" in modal logics: Dp 
= it exists a world satisfying p.

    A very good point, Bruno. But I think that you would agree that Dp is 
trivial if by itself given, as I explained above, that existence is necessary 
possibility. We need more than Dp in our semantics! We need a local1-p 
necessary definiteness of properties even if that definiteness vanishes in 3-p. 
I take quantum mechanics as screaming this message over and over but like the 
cries of Cassandra it falls upon dead ears.

    Most people, including most philosophers, do not explicitly talk about 
questions of the the reality or non-reality of the immediate content of “being 
in the world”. Descartes did in his Meditations and came to the conclusion that 
a dualism was needed. Regretfully his proposal had a fatal flaw because (for 
one thing)  he used the Humean notion of causality (including the principle of 
locality – as did Maudlin!), but this failure by Descartes does not necessitate 
the unsoundness of all forms of dualism. Pratt has sketched out a form of 
dualism that works! I am just trying to expand on his idea. But my hardest 
challenge is getting my fellow philosophers to stop being crypto-solipsists! 
Our modelizations must include some form of interactions between many minds. 
Interactions between minds and bodies is easy, interactions between minds is 

  SPK:       One idea that could be proposed is that information is a 
relationship in a triple such that a difference exists between two that makes a 
difference for the third. I am sure that this can be put into more formal 
terms. Turing Machines aside, we are not really getting to the problem until we 
have a good set of tools with which to examine the question of how to determine 
the substitution level of a given system and even if substitution is possible. 

Here I disagree 100%.
It is proved that if we are machine, then we cannot define and prove what is 
our substitution level. No machine can ever know which machine she is. This is 
what I have called the Benacerraf principle in older post (and my theses).
For any machine defined as such in a 3-way, the substitution level is built in 
the plan of the machine, by definition.

    Your disagreement is with a straw man, Bruno, not with my argument here, 
although I did use poor wording there. I was considering the physical aspect of 
substitution, as in the for example case of replacing biological neurons with 
silicon chips. Please remember that you are a monist and I am not, so our 
definitions differ in subtle ways. Your idea of Machine is purely ideal. For me 
machine has dual aspects, physical and informational. In my thoughts, a machine 
can have physical substitutability with another machine under bisimilarity, 
where the substitution maintains the invariance of the informational structure 
(a Complete Atomic Boolean Algebra for the classical case of Chu2). We can copy 
physical states up to the quantum limit, but we cannot copy the information 
that is relevant to determining the quantum states of those machines because of 
the non-commutativity of canonical conjugates.

    There is a difference between information and knowledge, between what is 
computable by UTM and what is not. I do not see how my claim is not 
inconsistent with the Benacerraf principle: 
( “if 
I am a machine I will never KNOWN which one.”; by my reasoning this follows 
from the “no outside observers” idea of van Fraassen. If there does not exist a 
third such that the state of that third is capable of being altered by a 
difference between a pair of states of knowledge, then there is no information 
difference in content (this is, by the way, the definition of bisimilarity!). 
Knowledge is like second order information.This is exactly the situation where 
my proposed duality vanishes! In the zero information state, there is no 
differences that could make a difference (per definition!). 
    I assume that I am a machine that requires some form of physical 
instantiation to preserve my sense of identity, my awareness of being in the 
world, but I cannot know or gain information of which ideal machine I am. 
Questions like “which physical implementation is “me”?” is similarly unknowable 
from 3-p because there does not exist a non-trivial 3-p that is a unique 
bijection of some 1-p. There are *many* possible 3-p that can be extended from 
a single 1-p. Your teleportation argument in UDA show this very well. This 
claim seems to imply that we cannot gain knowledge of “what it is like be be a 
bat” without actually being some kind of bat and is falsifiable in that sense. 
My wording may be ill-formed here, but I am betting that I am correct. 

    So where is our disagreement? 

  SPK: We can play with theoretical concepts and toy models all of our lives, 
but if and until they have concrete physical realizations they are mere 
figments of our imaginations.

I disagree again. We can use them as theoretical tools. Most of theoretical 
computer science is not constructive, and most of the times necessarily and 
provably so. That is another reason why it is closer to theology than to 

    I do not disagree that this is theology. I am very happy that you would 
wrestle theology away from the monopoly that irrational belief systems have 
claimed of it. It is about time! 


PS I know you are dyslexic, so I just tell you that the "L" in MAUDLIN, is 
after the "D", not before.



PPS Yes, I am dyslexic! That is my curse and blessing.

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