On 12/22/2012 10:02 PM, Jason Resch wrote:


On Sat, Dec 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

    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?


That was from the definition above.

    Does a spider have to have knowledge of it's own existence to recognize a 
fly?


No, those items in the list are separated by an "or".

    A rock has internal states that change via chemical reactions, crystal 
formation,
    cosmic ray strikes, etc.


Yes but the state changes are not recognized by any stable process operating within the rock. The atoms in the rock do stably store the information about what has happened to the rock, but nothing in the rock is there to see that record.

How do you know? You seem to be saying there's no homunculus to watch a theater of the mind; but the explanation of awareness and knowledge cannot be in terms of what is aware, is there "to see that record".



    The computations, if you can call them that,

    That's the point; how do you call some processes knowledge and not others.


It requires determining the program and then figuring out what that program 
knows.

But "knows" is what needs explaining. I'd say something has knowledge if it can act intelligently.

It is not easy or straight forward. It may not even be possible in all cases to identify the presence of a program.

    My answer is that they inform actions - at least potentially.


I agree.


    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.


Okay, then I might have misunderstood you. I thought by your definition the interaction had to go both ways.

    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.


A single computation can embody both aspects of the mind and the environment. Would you consider this mind disembodied, even it ran on a computer closed off from any inputs from the physical world where that computer ran?

One might simulate an environment and a mind that was aware of that environment, but you could never know that this was the case if the computation was not grounded in your environment, e.g. written by a human. It would be no different that the random vibrations in a stone.



          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?


Most brains in the vat are fooled into thinking they are having normal experiences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_in_a_vat

Surely, the human mind will shatter if not given any input. Most people break after 48 hours of sensory deprivation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_deprivation#.22Total_Isolation.22

    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.


That is what happens when human minds are deprived of inputs, but even if people enter loops or break psychologically, they don't become zombies just by virtue of being isolated.

Of course not, a zombie acts normally and so isn't in a loop. I don't think zombies are possible. At most you might be able to create an artificial mind that had a somewhat different kind of consciousness than humans (e.g. thinks entirely in images and geometry, instead of words) yet still acts intelligently. In a sense we are partial zombies because much of our 'thinking' (information processing) is unconscious.

Brent

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