On Sun, Jun 5, 2011 at 8:34 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sun, Jun 5, 2011 at 11:58 AM, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Sat, Jun 4, 2011 at 4:14 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Perhaps so, perhaps there is only Rex's beliefs.  Perhaps only rex's
>>> beliefs at this exact moment.
>> Not obviously impossible.  Thought not obviously necessitated either.
>> Does the possibility that there are only Jason’s beliefs at this exact
>> moment scare you?
>> Would you prefer it to be otherwise?
> It makes the universe much smaller, less varied, less fascinating, etc. to
> believe my current thought is all there is.  It also makes answering any
> questions futile (why does this thought exist?, can I change it?  Am I a
> static thought or an evolving thought?  What determines or controls the
> content of this thought?)  How can any of those questions be approached if
> only thought exists?

How can any of those questions be approached by conscious entities in
a deterministic computational framework?

Everything you’ll ever learn, every mistake you’ll ever make, every
belief you’ll ever have is already locked in.

Your life is “on rails”.  Maybe your final destination is good, maybe
it’s bad - but both the destination and the path to it are static and
fixed in Platonia.

Further, nothing about computationalism promises truth or anything
else desirable...or even makes them likely.

In fact, surely lies are far more common than truths in Platonia.
There are few ways to be right, but an infinite number of ways to be
wrong.  If you think you exist in Platonia, then surely you also have
to conclude that nearly everything else you believe is a lie.


Computationalism’s answers to the questions you pose are:

Why does this thought exist?  There is no reason except that
computation exists.  Big whoop.

Can I change it?  No.

Am I a static or evolving thought?  Neither.  Your are computation.

What determines or controls the content of this thought?  The brute
fact of computational structure.


Why did your momma love you?  It was computationally entailed.

Why did Jeffry Dahlmer kill those people?  It was computationally entailed.

Why 9/11, Auschwitz, AIDS, famine, bigotry, hate, suffering?  They are
computationally entailed.

Platonia actually sounds like more hell than heaven.

SO...what is it that computationalism gives you over solipsism,
exactly?  What makes this picture more varied, more fascinating, less

I’m not saying you’re position is worse than mine, but surely it’s no better.

>>> What is the engine providing the computations which drive the universe?
>> That assumes that computations do drive the universe.
>> Which is the assumption that I’m questioning.
> The physical universe may be computational or it may be a mathematical
> structure, but what enforces its consistency and constancy of its laws?  If
> it were a mathematical structure, or a computation then the consistency
> comes for free.

But doesn’t computationalism predict that their should be conscious
entities whose experience is of inconsistent, contradictory, shifting

In fact, this sounds like the experiences described by schizophrenics,
or people on drugs.

In fact, I would think that Platonia should contain far more chaotic
experiences than not.

So this virtue that you highlight isn’t a virtue at all.

The idea that “oh, those all cancel out when we average across all
computations” or something is pretty ad hoc sounding.

You’ve lost whatever intuitive appeal that computationalism had in
fell swoop.  We’re back to, “why would that result in conscious
experience if non-averaged computation didn’t???”

It just does?  Pah.

>>> Do you think pi has an objective (not human invented or approximated)
>>> value,
>>> whether or not any person computed it?
>> I think that everyone who starts from the same assumptions and makes
>> the same inferences will always reach the same conclusions regarding
>> the value of pi.
> So that would make pi an objectively studiable object, would it not?

Everyone who starts with the same assumptions about the Incredible
Hulk and Spiderman, and makes the same inferences from those
assumptions, will reach the same conclusions regarding the outcome of
an arm-wrestling match between them.

Does that make Spiderman objectively studiable?

>What makes the study of such objects less valid than the study of
> other objects in science, for example in biology?

I’m not saying it’s less valid.  It’s equally valid.  But that’s
saying less than you think.

> To define a bacterium as a life form
> Earth scientists and alien scientists both have to start from similar
> assumptions and make similar inferences.  Based on different starting
> assumptions some might say a virus is alive others may not, this doesn't
> mean that viruses don't exist.  In your postings you seem to suggest that
> given there could be disagreement on what starting assumptions to use the
> reality of mathematical objects should be called into question, but this
> would be like questioning whether viruses exist because biologists can't
> agree on whether or not they are alive.  The numbers, their properties and
> relations are objectively studiable, as much as planets and viruses are.  If
> math is invented, then you should invent a prime number with a billion
> digits and claim the $250,000 prize ( http://www.eff.org/awards/coop ).  If
> you cannot invent such a number, then perhaps mathematics truly is a space
> to be explored, much like the vacuum that surrounds our planet.

Instead, maybe I should just write a fantasy book about a boy wizard
to goes to a magical school - and then people who find such things
interesting would give me millions and millions of dollars!

Oh wait...maybe I can’t invent such a book, because I’m not a very
good writer, and people don’t find the structure of my fantasies
compelling or believable or interesting or useful.  Rats.

Well, according to you I shouldn’t feel bad.  My failure was entailed
by the computational structure of Platonia.  My efforts to achieve
success were...futile.

>> I’ll say that relative to some framework that includes my experience
>> with the assumptions and inferences and rules needed to calculate pi -
>> the answer is yes.  Because in that framework, given enough time and
>> enough “universe”, it seems likely that someone *could* calculate the
>> googleplexth digit of pi.
> So the value is there, waiting to be found (even though no one has bothered
> to go through the motions to compute it)?

No - as with whether the penny would have melted had I done something
yesterday, there is no fact of the matter.

As with the outcome of the Hulk-Spiderman armwrestling match - it can
only be judged relative to some story that we tell ourselves.  Some
people will tell one story, but there’s nothing to stop someone else
from telling a different story.

We might say:  but that’s inconsistent!

Or:  I don’t agree with your assumptions!

OR:  I think you made the wrong inference there!

BUT...it’s just a story.  There’s no absolute against which to judge
these stories, and so there can be no matters of fact except relative
to the stories.

Which is not to say that we get to decide our own paths - we are
characters, not authors.

(metaphorically speaking)

>> There is no fact of the matter except relative to the framework.
>> It’s like asking “who would win an arm wrestling match between the
>> Incredible Hulk and Spiderman”.  I can confidently say the Incredible
>> Hulk.  But that answer doesn’t really mean anything outside of the
>> “Marvel Universe”.  The Marvel Universe has no metaphysical
>> significance, and so my answer to this hypothetical question involving
>> it has no metaphysical significance either.
>> See?
> Unlike the marvel universe, if mathematical objects exist it is of huge
> metaphysical significance, as it makes so called physical universes
> redundant and completely unnecessary for explaining observations.

You don’t think it would be of huge metaphysical significance if the
marvel universe were to exist?  Seems like it would raise a few

>> Information is a difference that makes a difference.  But it has to
>> make a difference *to* someone.
> This is why the consciousness requires a process accepting or operating on
> information.  If a process is not defined there can be no interpretation.

“Process” is just a label for a certain way of thinking about things.
It’s a mental construct.

You’re trying to hypostatize a product of human thought.  And in fact,
explain human thought in terms of something that only exists within
human thought.

You’ve got it all backwards.

>> A randomly generated string of bits can be identical to a string of
>> bits representing an image...but the randomly generated string of bits
>> contain no real information whereas the image file does.
>> The difference being that I know how to correctly interpret an image
>> file, but there is no “correct” interpretation of a random string of
>> bits.
>> But with the right “interpretation” any information can be found
>> anywhere.  The magic is all in the interpreter, not in what’s being
>> interpreted.
>> Information is observer-relative.  Observers aren’t information-relative.
> Are you a computationalist?  This line of thought sounds like you are..

No.  Information is something that observers have.  Observers are not
something that information has.

Our positions are mirror images.

Reverse the arrow of explanation, and you’ve got it!

>>> There are also reasons to believe in the informational basis if
>>> consciousness due to multiple realizeability.  Minds can take different
>>> physical forms because information cab take many physical forms.
>> I can take anything to represent anything else.  So “representation”
>> is multiply realizable.
>> But again, that has to do with me, not with information.  If I
>> remember what my encoding scheme was, I can “re-present” things to
>> myself.  If I forget what my encoding scheme was, or that I even
>> encoded anything - then all I have are a bunch of bits...which for all
>> I know might be random.
>> If they really were random bits, but for some reason I was convinced
>> they weren’t - I might find all sorts of “meaningful” interpretations
>> of them using all sorts of decoding schemes - but none of these would
>> be correct.
>> In this case, I’m doing all of the work...the bits aren’t doing
>> anything.  Which, as it turns out, is also true of non-random bit
>> strings.  I do all of the work.  The bits are just reminders...hints.
>> I think you’re getting it all backwards.  Representation depends on
>> me.  I don’t depend on representation.
> What I mean by multiple realizability is parts of your brain can be replaced
> with any part which is functionally equivalent without impacting your
> consciousness.

If consciousness were caused by particles in the brain assuming
particular configurations in sequence, then this would be convincing.

But this doesn’t make much sense to me.  There’s nothing in my
conception of particles or configurations or sequences that would have
led me to predict that combined they would give rise to something like
my conscious experience.

So arguments that start from here aren’t convincing to me in the least.

>> You’re saying:  “Hey, look at all the great things I can do with
>> representation!  What if I represented myself in some way???  Would
>> that be me?”
>> Well...no.  That would be a representation of you.
> How are you defining the person in this case?  Different functionally
> equivalent representations of you would be as conscious as you are now,
> would they not?
>> Representation is
>> something you do, not something that you are.
> If by representation you mean the representation of consciousness, then this
> is the functionalist/computationalist philosophy in a nutshell.

Computationalism says that representation *is* something you are.

I say the opposite.  Representation is something you do, which is so
natural to you and so useful to you that you’ve mistaken it as the
explanation for everything.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

That’s your mistake, in a nutshell.

>>>> But, ultimately, what is computation?
>>> A process.  More specifically one that connects a succession of
>>> states via some well-defined relation(s).
>> So why would a process that connects a succession of states via
>> well-defined relations - in addition to being that - *also* be my
>> conscious experience of sitting in this chair drinking coffee, writing
>> this email?
> Because as you said, you need something to impart meaning to the bits, and
> that requires well defined relations which indicate meaning of the bits to
> the overall process.  While you can look at any bit string and say it means
> this, you cannot look at a program which is calculating Pi and say it is
> calculating e.
>> Why would that be?  Why would this process be *two* things instead of
>> just one?  Not interpretable as two things (by me) - but really,
>> intrinsically two entirely different things?
> I am not sure what you are asking here.  There are third and first person
> perspectives of course, does that mean there are two things?

It’s the same explanatory gap as exists with materialism.

Why should unconscious matter give rise to conscious experience of
red?  Zombies seem more plausible.

The same holds with computation.  Why should unconscious computation
give rise to the experience of red?  Computational Zombies seem more
plausible...the representation of conscious people without real
conscious experience.

There’s nothing in my conception of numbers or relations or
computation or calculation or axioms or rules of inference that would
lead me to predict that combined they would give rise to anything like
my experience.

So arguments that start from here aren’t convincing to me in the least.


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