Re: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Wei Dai <>
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 00:20:11 -0800

On Fri, Jan 15, 1999 at 05:04:09PM -0800, wrote:
> I meant that in the context of a single universe. In any given universe,
> all that matters is whether a program is instantiated at all. Instantiating
> exactly the same program multiple times in that universe does not increase
> its measure, or the subjective probability of its occurance.
> I say this not as an assumption, but because of the thought experiment
> I described. Two computers, running in lock-step, performing exactly the
> same calculation at every instant, seem to me to be effectivelly the same
> as a single computer. Make a computer with extra wide processing elements
> and data paths, then divide them all down the middle by an insulator.
> You have turned one computer into two. I don't see how that can be a
> subjective change. Make the insulator a variable resistor, and we can
> vary smoothly between one and two computers. But it does not seem that
> we should be able to vary smoothly between one and two conscious entities.
> Perhaps there is some other resolution to this puzzle that I have
> missed. But this is the basis for my conclusion that multiple identical
> instantiations of a consciousness do not add anything.

Another solution to this puzzle is the idea that the measure of a
conscious experience is related to the measure of the state information
that produces that experience. Given this assumption, when you double the
computer's processing element widths, you double the system's contribution
to the universal a priori distribution and therefore double the measures
of the conscious experiences related to the system. And the same thing
happens when you double the number of computers instead.

> Just creating a state or series of states is not enough, because it is
> not possible, even in principle, to interact with them. They are static
> and just sit there.
> I would like to ground the question of whether a consciousness has been
> instantiated by asking whether you could possibly interact with it.
> If the answer is, yes, then I'd say there must be a consciousness
> instantiated, else what are you interacting with? On this basis I
> would point to active computation as being a necessary ingredient for
> being *sure* that consciousness exists.

I don't think interaction is crucial to consciousness. If a brain exists
by itself in a universe without any interaction with other universes, it
can still be conscious.
Received on Tue Jan 19 1999 - 00:21:56 PST

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