On 20 Apr 2017 3:59 a.m., "Brent Meeker" <meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:



On 4/19/2017 6:42 PM, David Nyman wrote:



On 20 Apr 2017 12:57 a.m., "John Clark" <johnkcl...@gmail.com> wrote:

On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 6:56 AM, David Nyman <da...@davidnyman.com> wrote:

​> ​
> ​I've often wondered whether Hoyle's heuristic could be a way of
> short-cutting this dispute. Hoyle gives us a way to think about every
> subjective moment
>

​As a kid I remember reading ​
Fred Hoyle's
​Novel "
October the First Is Too Late
​"​ and in it he wrote about consciousness for about half a paragraph, is
that what you're talking about?


Yes, I'm talking about that novel. I too read it more than forty years ago.
However I recently re-read it and I can assure you that the treatment of
conscious experience in the manner described is both extensive and central
to the theme of the novel. Hoyle went out of the way to emphasise that he
took his "heuristic" seriously as a scientist, as his former student John
Gribbin fully attested. Julian Barbour also acknowledges Hoyle's priority
in the notion of subjectivity as captured by time capsules, an essentially
equivalent notion.




> ​> ​
> Essentially the heuristic invites us to think of all subjective
> experiences, aka observer moments, as a single logical serialisation in
> which relative spatial and temporal orientation is internal to each moment.
>

​
Well yes, but all that's really saying is that we have a subjective feeling
of time and space, but we already knew that.


It goes well beyond that, as the narrative is at pains to set out. Hoyle's
physicist protagonist invites the other main character to place himself in
the subjective position represented by any of the pigeon holes, in any
order. Then he asks him to explain what he thinks his subjective experience
would be. His response (the guy is very quick on the uptake) is that his
experience would appear to be perfectly normally​ sequenced from a
psycho-historical point of view, despite random ordering from an external
perspective. He also immediately grasps that any number of apparently
individualised perspectives could be "interleaved" in this manner whilst
retaining psycho-historical continuity for each.

As I remember it Hoyle talked about events (that is to say a time and a
place) being in pigeon holes in no particular order and consciousness is
like a light
​flashing​
 on
​a sequence of
pigeon hole i
​n a very particular ​
order. The set of pigeon holes you have to work with is the same as the set
I have,  the thing that makes you different than me is
​that ​
the sequence of light flashes illuminating those pigeon holes is different
for you and me.


Yes, more or less. Hoyle's explicit conceptual point is that a single
common agent could be occupying all these perceptual positions, in whatever
extrinsic order, and the net subjective result would be as if you, me or
any other notionally sentient entities were experiencing completely
separated​ and sequenced personal histories. But this is just what one
would expect, for example, of any computational device capable of
compartmentalising one program's states from another's. Hence it
establishes the distinction I mentioned between the notion of
synchronization as publicly established with respect to a common clock and
that of subjective simultaneity.


Or to put it another way
​,​
the difference between you and me is information. So if the information on
how my mind operates is put into a computer and then my body is destroyed
my consciousness does not stop, if two phonographs are synchronized and
playing the same
​
symphony and you destroy one machine, the music does not stop.
​ ​
The fundamental question you have to ask yourself is; are we, our
subjective existence, more like bricks or symphonies?

Actually Hoyle's analogy would have been better if he put thoughts in those
pigeon holes rather than events because you don't have thoughts you are
thoughts.


Subjectively, yes, I agree. But Hoyle actually makes this point explicitly.



​>​
>  each 1-view is occupied serially and exclusively by the single agent:
> i.e. *at one time and in one place*. Hence in that sense only a single
> 1-view can possibly represent me *at that one time and that one place*.
>

​I see no reason that must me true. Suppose all your life you had 2 brains
in your head not one, the 2 brains were identical and always received
identical information from your senses so they always agreed on how to
operate your body. So perfect was the agreement that neither brain
suspected the existence of the other. And then one day one of those brains
was instantaneously stopped, what would be the result?  Obviously a outside
observer would notice no change in your behavior so objectively there would
be no difference, and no thoughts would be interrupted so there would be no
subjective change either. If stopping that brain makes no objective
difference and it makes no subjective difference then it's safe to say it
just makes no difference.


I agree. But this is surely an example of what I say above: i.e. here we
have a single view representing my subjective situation at one time and in
one place. A difference which as you rightly say makes no difference is
generally agreed to be no difference, isn't that so? In any case, even
should we come up with an intelligible notion, unlike what you propose, for
some species of perceptual orientation that differed significantly from my
specification above (e.g. a single subjective view encompassing two times
in two places??) I doubt that either of us would wish to cite it as typical
of human experience.


Also I don't think it makes much sense in saying your consciousness
occupies a unique space. When you think about The
Eiffel Tower
​
is your subjectivity in
​France​
 or is it in a bone box sitting on your shoulders?


Again I agree. Hoyle's notion bears only on the subjective situation of his
solipsistic and highly amnesic multiple personality and makes no
stipulation as to physical location. He merely requires that subjective
spatiotemporal location be consistent with physics understood in a broadly
Everettian manner. In any case it's not meant as more than a possibly
enlightening guide to thought. What is proposed is a particular conception
of multiple subjective instances, whether conceived as mine, yours or those
of a third party​. It invites us to accept in principle the idea of our
continued subjective existence in multiple versions (i.e. essentially
consistent with the Everett interpretation) whilst equally appreciating
that subjective compartmentalisation will generally make it appear as if we
continue in only a single one of those versions. At the same time, and I
personally think this is rather neat, it stops us from having to think in
terms of the "simultaneous" though different conscious experiences of those
"other versions", which generally strikes us as psychologically
problematic. It achieves this by replacing the notion of "simultaneity" in
this context by that of synchronization with respect to any suitable
publicly sharable clock.

So this leaves us free (in the common guise of Hoyle's wandering clerk and
his pigeon holes) to occupy imaginatively each of these perspectives at the
appropriate points in the serialisation


That I don't understand.  Who is wandering and why does there need to be a
wanderer or an agent.  Isn't the moving light the indicator of experience
being realized? But why does it need to be "realized".  If it's a thought
or experience it doesn't need "realizing".  If it's not, how does
indicating it with a light make any difference?


The wanderer was just Hoyle's narrative device to bring out the
subjectively self-ordering aspect of the pigeon holes, as distinct from any
extrinsic order which you might have imagined being placed on them. You may
recall that Schrödinger also said something ​along the lines of experience
being "in a certain sense" a single whole, but not one that could be
"surveyed in a single glance". Hoyle's image is meant to convey something
of that sort; a kind of imaginative dynamic serialisation of Schrödinger's
"glances". I wouldn't struggle to put it all into too literal a frame
though. I've just found that thinking about the thing in Hoyle's way can
help to shed intuitive light on some of the puzzles we discuss here, as
I've suggested.

David



Brent


without being disturbed by thoughts of the "simultaneous" experiences of
our "other selves"​. And moreover should we be unable to avoid a suspicion
that, given these considerations, even those others we regard as "not
ourselves" are likewise not simultaneously conscious in this selfsame
moment, we would do well to reflect that no possible public investigation
could determine that they were. Indeed this stricture extends as far as any
public examination of our very own brains!

Anyway, that's the reason I thought a reminder of Hoyle's idea at this
juncture might be helpful. I hope it may be.

David


  John K Clark






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