RE: amoeba, decision and consciousness

From: Higgo James <>
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 09:30:32 -0000

Bruno has clarified nicely what I have been trying to say. There is choice
and free will in the environment we inhabit, but it is not an objective
feature of reality.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Marchal []
> Sent: 15 January 1999 09:08
> To:
> Subject: amoeba, decision and consciousness
> Wei Dai asked
> >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.
> >
> >But now suppose there is one computer running an AI program, and a second
> >computer that makes a copy of the first computer's state after every
> >operation. My question is how much contribution to the consciousness
> >measure does this setup make, compared to the single computer setup? If
> >consciousness is based on computation, then it makes the same
> >contribution, since there is just one instance of the AI computation
> being
> >run. But if consciousness is based on information, then it makes twice as
> >much contribution, since there are two copies of the AI's state at any
> >given time.
> >
> >So which is it?
> I am not sure I understand why you choose the words computation and
> information, but let use these words. Neither don't Ifeel easy with the
> expression "measure of consciousness" : I understand it as a question of
> measuring conditionnal probabilities. Let me put it in the following way :
> You are computationnalist so you are willing to use (classical)
> teletransportation. So your instantaneous description is read at
> Amsterdam (let us say) and then you are annihilated (100% of success,
> this is not possible with MWI, let us suppose it is possible for the sake
> of the argument). Then you are build following the description at
> Washington in one exemplar, and you are build in Moscow in 9 exemplars.
> What is your expectation, when you are at Amsterdam of feeling yourself
> appearing in Washington after the experiment ? I suppose the 9 exemplars
> in Moscow are build in identical but separate closed rooms.
> Would you say there is something like 1/10 of appearing in Washington and
> 9/10 appearing in Moscow ?
> For computationnalism making sense, I believe there must be a difference.
> If there is no difference there is a risk of collapsing all
> computationnal state, at least from a first person point of view.
> I think that this question is fundamental both for the computationnalist
> and any many-worlder. Nevertheless it is not easy to formalize such
> question. I think it is an important open problem.
> Gilles wrote
> >I personnaly deny the concept of "measure of conscious experiment". I
> deny
> >the fact that consciousness is an *objective* property of matter, just
> >because you can not define a physical property, measurable by an external
> >apparatus, whose measure could determine the degree of consciousness (or
> if
> >you can, let me know).
> OK, but just replace "measure of conscious experiment" by "probability of
> having a personal experience". See above.
> >Much of the discussion about consciouness is plagued by this fact,
> because
> >we include it in formalisms that have not been deviced to handle it. The
> >only consciousness we know is our own one, by means that are different
> from
> >those we use to interact with the outer world. We think that the other
> >human beings are conscious because of the similarity of their behavior
> with
> >ours, but it does not define what is consciousness. If one succeeds in
> >building a computer with a human-like behaviour (which is quite possible
> in
> >my sense), deciding if it is actually conscious or not is purely a matter
> >of convenience, not an intrinsic property. In other words, I think the
> >proposition "Another than me is conscious" is really unprovable.
> That is a very important point. Note that the proposition "I am
> conscious" is also unprovable. I am used to define quasi-axiomatically
> consciousness by this very property. To be conscious = to know something
> and to feel that it is not possible to prove it. This make it possible to
> find objective root for subjectivity. The existence of unprovable (by a
> machine x) but true (about machine x) proposition encourage to use logic
> for the search of objective foundation of subjectivity.
> James wrote
> >So it is MEANINGLESS to think of 'choice' or 'determinism'. Two
> meaningless
> >words can be as compatible as you like.
> I think it is a question of level. At the arithmetical level or if you
> prefer at the level of the wave function of the universe 'choice' has no
> meaning. But at that level things seems to me to be deterministic
> (Schroedinger equation is determinist). But at the personal higher order
> level, choice has a meaning. The meaning is linked to the fact that I am
> ignorant -for all practical purpose- of the low level, AND I can reflect
> that practical ignorance and feel obliged to make choice.
> If not, any lawyer could defend anyone very easily : O member of the
> jury, please, indulge poor Bill Clinton, after all, all he has done is
> just obeying physical deterministic equation ! And of course the jury can
> propose the death penalty to poor Bill, justifying themselves by invoking
> the same equation.
> Well, by saying that 'choice' has no meaning, you take the risk of
> denying the meaning of any high level psychological term, and to produce
> something like an ethical collapse.
> James wrote also
> >In the MWI view, we have a 'block universe' made up of every possible
> >universe and time is just a relationship between them. To speak of
> anything
> >'happening' - let alone a choice - is meaningless when you take this
> >'Archimedian' perspective in 'nowhen' (The time issue is mastered by Huw
> >Price in 'Time's Arrow and Archimedes's Point' (1997 I think) -
> absolutely
> >required reading.). Determinism, free will - all meaningless.
> Right, but WE are NOT living at the Archimedian level. We do have free
> wil, just because we cannot determine ourself completely, and we can
> reflect that.
> And free-wil could be an objective property of any sufficiently rich
> machines embedded in that 'block universe'.
> > There is NO reason to think that the arrow of time is an
> >objective feature of reality.
> Same remark. I agree with that (as a matter of fact I do think there is no
> reason to think that any physical stuff has an objective feature in
> reality).
> BUT here too, I do think that there could be an objective feature to the
> existence of the feeling of the arrow of time for a machine (or abserver)
> which can only postulate the existence of the Archimedian level.
> The intrinsical limitation of the observer can be founded on objective
> law linking the observer and the archimedian level. Exactly like Everett
> when he gives objective reasons (schroedinger equation) for subjective
> probabilities (personal histories of automaton).
> Bruno.
Received on Fri Jan 15 1999 - 01:39:06 PST

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