On Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 3:42 PM, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:
> 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>
> >> On Sat, Jun 4, 2011 at 4:14 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com>
> >>> 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.
> > 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
> > 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.
This is fatalism. By AR+Comp you will experience all possible experiences,
perhaps an infinite number of times (recurring endlessly?). But this does
not mean we are powerless to affect the measure of those experiences. A
simple example: Some think that QM implies that in half the universes they
put on the seatbelt and in half the others they don't. This is not true, if
the person is conscientious enough they probably put on the seat belt in
>99% of the universes. That depends entirely on them. A
less safety-concerned individual may have the opposite probabilities.
> 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.
What is true in this universe may be false or meaningless in most of the
universes, but there might be some things which are true in every universe
(such as 2+2 = 4). If it is true in every universe, even in those having
fewer than 4 things to count then by extension they are true even in
universes with nothing to count, and correspondingly, would be true even if
there was nothing anywhere. Math is self-existent (I can easily prove to
you at least one thing must be self-existent for there to be anything at
all) and it is much easier to see how math can be self-existent compared to
observable physical universe.
> Computationalism’s answers to the questions you pose are:
> Why does this thought exist? There is no reason except that
> computation exists. Big whoop.
Computationalism (mechanism, functionalism) is a theory of mind, which I
believe is superior to its contenders (immaterialism, interactionalist
dualism, epiphenominalism, biological naturalism, mind-brain identity
theory, etc.) which all have big flaws. While immaterialism cannot be
disproved, it explains nothing and therefore fails as an explanatory or
scientific theory. It
> Can I change it? No.
Then why bother to get food when you are hungry?
> 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.
This is just reductionism taken beyond the level where it should be taken.
You might as well answer: It is physically entailed, chemically entailed,
biologically entailed, etc. I don't see the point of the argument.
> Platonia actually sounds like more hell than heaven.
You base that on the small part of Platonia you have seen in your decades as
a human on this remote planet floating through an infinitesimal part of the
universe. Perhaps life in other alien civilizations is comparatively a
> SO...what is it that computationalism gives you over solipsism,
> exactly? What makes this picture more varied, more fascinating, less
It answers questions which cannot be answered correctly with other theories
of mind. Given what I know, it is the theory of mind I would wager on as
correct above the others I know about.
> I’m not saying you’re position is worse than mine, but surely it’s no
> >>> 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?
> > 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
We went over this a few months ago without ever reaching an agreement.
Surely there are some, but I think such universes occur less frequently
and/or preclude conscious life forms from evolving. You said they would
occur more frequently because there are more unique descriptions (given the
fact that they are longer and there are more possibilities the longer a
> In fact, this sounds like the experiences described by schizophrenics,
> or people on drugs.
And people have those experiences.
> In fact, I would think that Platonia should contain far more chaotic
> experiences than not.
If consciousness = awareness of random bit strings chosen from Platonia I
would agree, but if consciousness involves computation, it seems chaotic
programs harder to come by. You would need a stable platform for the
program to run long enough to compute a thought, but somehow the input to
that program would have to be noise. A chaotic experience requires a
not-fully chaotic mind to have the experience. Otherwise you might say the
air molecules bouncing around your room constitute a chaotic experience.
> 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.
I don't think I ever made an argument about cancelling out or averaging out.
> >>> 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.
Okay, this makes sense given your solipism/immaterialism.
> > 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
> > relations are objectively studiable, as much as planets and viruses are.
> > 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 ).
> > you cannot invent such a number, then perhaps mathematics truly is a
> > 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.
My point was that mathematics has its own rules, it is not something where
anyone can add their own arbitrary axioms as they see fit. For example, if
you generated a 1 followed by 999,999,999 zeros and declared it an axiom
that the number is prime, you would not be awarded the prize. (This would
be inventing math, rather than searching for and finding such a prime).
> 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.
Who determines what song you choose to listen to on the radio (or music
player), *you* or the atoms bouncing around in your brain? As thinking
beings we have a will which we can exercise. Don't let deterministic or
non-deterministic theories of the universe tell you otherwise.
> >> 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
> > 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.
So ultimately, where do these stories come from?
> 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
We wouldn't see it if it did exist. The consequences of its existence are
therefore much less important.
> >> 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
> > 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
> > 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.
I agree. Observers are aware of information, and that makes them conscious.
You say observers interpret information. Well explain what you
mean precisely by interpret.
I define interpretation as a system which may enter one of multiple states
based on that information (information processing). This is different from
information travelling through some pipe. The atomic elements of
computation compare and contrast information through logical operations AND,
OR, NOT, etc.
There is only so much that can be done with information. Whatever your
interpreter does with it, can be replicated by an appropriately programmed
Turing machine. Therefore while not all computations may be conscious, if
consciousness involves processing or interpreting information in some way,
then a computer can replicate that process.
> 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
> > 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.
Lightly press on the back of your hand with your finger and spend a few
minutes concentrating on the qualia of that experience. What more can you
describe it as beyond the awareness of information? More complex qualia,
such as vision are certainly far more complex and difficult to explain (if
you are interested in delving into this I will attempt to do so), but once
you can explain a basic qualia such as the experience of touch, the
mysteriousness of them goes away.
Your brain contains information received by the senses, it is a system which
can enter many different states based on that information (it interprets
it). One of those states is your brain thinking about the fact that it
knows it is touching the back of your hand with one of your fingers (that
may represent only a few bits of information), now consider that your brain
has 100,000,000,000 neurons and you can begin to see that more complex
qualia such as vision involve vastly greater amounts of information (some
30% of your cortex is devoted to processing visual information). Together
with the modularity of mind (different sections are specialized and compute
different things, and share the results with other brain regions), you can
begin to see why qualia such as Red or Green are so hard to explain.
Consider Google's self-driving cars. They need to determine whether the
stop light is Yellow, Red or Green. The cameras collect many MB worth of
raw R,G,B data per second which is processed by a specialized function which
determines the state of the stop light. The result Red, Green, or Yellow is
transmitted to other parts of the driving software, for example the parts
which control acceleration. This part of the software knows there is a
difference between "Light is Red" vs. "Light is Green", but it cannot say
how they are different or why it knows they are different (this was decided
elsewhere). It is much like the verbal section of your brain trying to
articulate the difference between red and green, it knows they are different
but cannot say how. It does now have access to the raw data received from
the millions of cones in your retina.
> 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
> > 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.
You should read this
Functionalism is the idea that it is what the parts do, not what they are
that is important in a mind.
Computatalism is a more specific form of functionalism (it assumes the
functions are Turing emulable)
> 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,
> > that requires well defined relations which indicate meaning of the bits
> > the overall process. While you can look at any bit string and say it
> > 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.
What is your background? Perhaps knowing that we could communicate more
clearly or choose better examples. I am a computer programmer, with
interests in cryptography which involves some number theory.
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