Re: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: <>
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 08:37:17 -0800

Wei Dai, <>, writes:
> Is consciousness based on information or computation? Let me give an
> example to explain what I mean. Suppose there is a computer running an AI
> program. Assuming computationalism, this computation should contribute to
> the measure on conscious experiences. Now suppose there are two computers
> independently running two identical AI programs with the same inputs. This
> should make twice as much contribution to the consciousness measure.

I'm not sure this is true.

Running exactly the same program on two computers may not accomplish
anything. We would not say that running the program on an extra large
computer would give it larger measure, or running it more slowly would do
so (in particular running each instruction twice), so it is questionable
why running the whole program twice would matter.

The speed, number, and medium of instantiations are irrelevant.
All that really matters is whether the program is instantiated at all.
(I still cling to the hope that we can objectively define whether a
given program has been instantiated, but that is another issue.)

In order to double the measure, the two computers should be running
different programs, programs different enough to produce a noticeably
changed consciousness. I think if you do this, then the issue of
saving states will no longer matter, because the states of the two
computers will be different.

Theoretically, it would be possible to interact separately and differently
with the two consciousnesses which result. It is this objective,
measurable, different activity in the universe which ultimately grounds
this notion of "measure of consciousness" in reality. Otherwise we are
stuck with a completely arbitrary definition with no observable effects.

Received on Thu Jan 14 1999 - 08:56:49 PST

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