On 2/3/2011 2:40 PM, Jason wrote:

On Feb 2, 6:18 pm, Brent Meeker<meeke...@dslextreme.com>  wrote:
On 2/2/2011 2:00 AM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

On Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 6:45 PM, Brent Meeker<meeke...@dslextreme.com>    wrote:
I think it very likely that the brain can be so modeled.  But the meaning
that simulated brain, as expressed in it's output decisions relative to
inputs is dependent on the rest of the world, or at least of it with which
the brain will interact - including the past evoutionary history which led
up to the brain.  Its computations have no canonical interpretation in
You can connect the simulated brain to transducers which convert
environmental inputs into electrical signals. But then, what would
happen if the same electrical signals were input from data on disk
rather than the environment? Would the brain's experience be
different? If so, how would it know where the data was coming from?
It wouldn't know; and it's responses would have no meaning except to
someone who did know.  Context is essential.  Otherwise you get the rock
that calculates everything.

People have argued that a rock computes everything, or that some wall
in their house is computing Microsoft Word, but I don't see it.  If
that were true, what would it take in theory, for someone to hook up
their monitor and mouse to a rock to access the copy of Microsoft Word
which is executing in it?

Meaningful programs have stable states which are updated in well-
defined ways.  It seems completely opposite to the chaotic small and
unstable operations taking place in a rock.  One could pick out the
right random particle collisions, using "Turing's Demon" and say if
you choose and look at those computations occurring there and string
them together just right, then you have Microsoft Word.  But how do
you identify what the right collisions are without computing them in
parallel and knowing them?  Upon which memory do you record the
intermediate result to be use in future operations?  Surely the rock
won't provide any mechanism for maintaining this state for you.

Where in the rock, for instance, is the function for determining if
some word is known by the dictionary or not?  Does the rock contain
such a dictionary?


Exactly. If you consider the rock, in itself as including the environment and the observer, then translation from rock language to our language can be anything at all - there is no rosetta stone and no way to know that the rock is not simulating a world with an observer in it. But if you want the rock program to function or mean something in our world, then it has to have a determinate translation and actually do something. That's my point that an "observer" or "consciousness" is only relative to a context and if it's not in our context it might as well not exist.


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
For more options, visit this group at 

Reply via email to