On 12/22/2012 5:10 PM, Jason Resch wrote:



On Sat, Dec 22, 2012 at 3:48 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

    On 12/22/2012 1:21 PM, Jason Resch wrote:


    On Sat, Dec 22, 2012 at 2:57 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net
    <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

        On 12/22/2012 11:36 AM, Jason Resch wrote:
        As to how computation might lead to consciousness, I think it helps to 
start
        with a well-defined definition of consciousness.  Take dictionary.com
        <http://dictionary.com>'s definition:
        "awareness of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, 
etc."
        Well what is awareness? dictionary.com <http://dictionary.com> defines 
it as:
        "having knowledge"
        dictionary.com <http://dictionary.com>'s simplest non-circular 
definition of
        knowledge is simply "information".

        As discussed earlier, you can have information in the Shannon sense, 
but that
        is just measure over different possible messages.  For it to be 
information
        *about* something, to be knowledge, it has to be grounded in the 
ability to act.


    Right.  But how do you define act?  I think changing states within the 
process is
    sufficient.

    I don't.  That leads to the paradox of the conscious rock.


I disagree. There is no *process *within the rock that gives any indication that it "has information of its own existence, sensations, thoughts, or surroundings".

How did "of its own existence" get in there? Does a spider have to have knowledge of it's own existence to recognize a fly? A rock has internal states that change via chemical reactions, crystal formation, cosmic ray strikes, etc.

The computations, if you can call them that,

That's the point; how do you call some processes knowledge and not others. My answer is that they inform actions - at least potentially.

are only the simplest linear operations of particle collisions, there are no stable structures and no long running coherent computations.

Do you not deny that a paralyzed person can be conscious (as is the case with total locked-in syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locked-in_syndrome )?

I'm not sure. "Total locked-in syndrome" seems to still admit interaction by visual perception. Of course the person has memories and knowledge that were formed in the past and were derivative of action. I think that if an infant suffered total lock in they would never learn to think as normal humans do. What knowledge is built into an animal is built in by the interactions of natural selection. So I still think knowledge is grounded in interaction with environments - that the idea of disembodied, and hence isolated consciousness is ultimately incoherent.

      The states within only have meaning by virtue to external actions and 
perceptions.


Who is the judge of externality? Why can't the independent modules in the brain be considered actors in a larger environment? This seems to lead to a "turtles all the way up" situation, where there have to ever greater levels of external observers or actions. What if our whole universe were a computer emulation, would that make us into zombies because the giant computer has no external actions?

    The whole evolutionary advantage of having a 'within' is that the brain can 
project
    and anticipate (e.g. 'simulate') the external world as part of its decision 
process.


Yes brains and consciousness evolved so we can better interact with the world, but that doesn't mean interaction with the external world is necessary for consciousness. We evolved the ability to perceive pleasure for (eating, sleeping, mating, etc.), but we can achieve pleasure directly (using direct brain stimulation or drugs) without needing to eat, sleep, mate, etc.

I don't think I've met a materialist who rejects the idea that a brain in the vat could be conscious.

Suppose you copied someone's brain, like Bruno's doctor, and put it in a vat with not neural input/output? I don't think it would really be conscious very long. I expect it would either think no thoughts at all or it would become trapped in loop.

Brent

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