RE: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Higgo James <>
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 10:09:22 -0000

The word 'dynamic' is relative.
We, as creatures in time, see things as dynamic.

The block universe itself is unchanging and everlasting.
There are many relationships -
in fact, there are all possible relationships.

Everything possible exists.
One relationship is what we call 'time',
which is a relationship between 'snapshots'
in the block universe or 'multiverse'.

As we are creatures in time,
we can do no other
than see this relationship
as a dynamic flow.

Now we get on
to the weak anthropic principle.

We see this 'flow of time' because
and only because it is
a prerequisite for the evolution of consciousness.
Every physical feature of our environment
is uncannily precisely tuned
to the emergence of consciousness.

All environments exist,
so if we find ourselves existing,
then it's pretty bloody obvious
that we will be in a universe
that is capable of supporting us.

And in those universes
which are more finely tuned to support us,
there is a higher incidence of conscious life.

Golly, gosh! so we should expect to find ourselves in an enviornment
arbitrarily finely-tined to be hospitable to us.
And one that has all these fine features,
such as a dynamic flow of time.

But of course, from the Archimedian perspective,
outside the block universe,
all relationships exist,
they are unchanging and everlasting.
No one enviornment is to be preferred to another.
The enviornment that we all inhabit so happily
is infinitely tiny.

The word 'dynamic' is subjective.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Wei Dai []
> Sent: 28 January 1999 00:18
> To: Jacques M Mallah
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: consciousness based on information or computation?
> On Wed, Jan 27, 1999 at 01:22:02PM -0500, Jacques M Mallah wrote:
> > And it's not at all clear to me that static strings, without
> > dynamics or decisions, could have anything to do with consciousness.
> > Stalemate. We may never agree on this one. I think more people
> > would support my position than yours, but that's not saying much.
> Let's see if there isn't a reasonable way out of this stalemate. First of
> all it's obvious that consciousness must have something to do with
> information. Now a binary string is the simplest kind of object that can
> contain information, but any discrete structure that can contain
> information can also be encoded as binary strings. Therefore binary
> strings are a universal container of information. If pure structure can
> sustain consciousness, then binaries strings can sustain consciousness. Do
> you agree so far?
> You don't seem to think that pure structure is sufficient for
> consciousness. Why? Clearly we experience dynamics and decisions, but
> could they not just be illusions? Is there a deeper reason why dynamics
> and decisions are necessary for consciousness?
> > No, that's not what I said. For the shortest program, the
> > simulated environment would no doubt be vastly simplified compared to
> what
> > we observe. But the basic elements of competition for survival and
> > the advantages of communication would be there. It will take many
> > generations to evolve intelligence, of course.
> But there is no reason to think that intelligence will easily evolve in
> any competitive environment. Neural networks have been in existence a lot
> longer than intelligence. Some people even argue that the evolution of
> intelligence on earth is a pure coincidence. I wouldn't go that far, but
> the evolution of intelligence clearly depends on a fairly small set of
> environments.
> > You know as well as I do that an approximate solution is good
> > enough for our purposes and much easier to find. To be fair, the length
> > of both the form you proposed (and which I had earlier rejected), and of
> > the competitors such as the neural nets in the simple environment,
> should
> > be estimated. Maybe a good (and neutral) computer scientist could give
> us
> > those estimates without too much work.
> > My proposal to find a definition of implementation of a
> > computation is much more conservative than your approach, since it also
> > applies to regular theories of physics, and is in the established
> > tradition of computationalism. I admit it requires more work but I
> don't
> > think it's hopeless; and if it is, that's just as important to know.
> I think your approach is an interesting one, and not hopeless (as far as I
> can see). But then it's quite difficult to discuss an approach that
> is missing the definition for a basic concept.
> > Just that it would take a big program. Of course the neurons must
> > also be numbered in some sensible way.
> Ok, you have your estimate, and I have mine. The numbering of course can
> be based on spatial position.
> > On the contrary. Some programs will just rewrite the same part of
> > the tape, and those we can neglect for now. But some will keep printing
> > out copies of the same string end on end, and the ones that halt will
> have
> > zero measure compared to those, since more copies means more measure.
> > This gives a slight advantage to short strings.
> No I assume that each tape only contributes to the measure of the entire
> string on the tape, not to the measures of substrings. (I.e., you can only
> be an entire tape, not part of a tape, if you want to think of it that
> way) Otherwise the measure will be completely dominated by simple counting
> programs that write out 0's and 1's as fast as they can.
> > Here is a serious problem for you. The Turing machines start out
> > will all possible programs, that is, with all possible infinite strings
> on
> > the tapes. At any finite time, no matter how large [and therefore in
> the
> > limit], the fraction of the tape that even the repeat printers have
> > covered is equal to zero. So the printed strings have zero measure
> > compared to the infinity of random strings on the as yet untouched part
> of
> > the tape, even though the fraction of those that are conscious is small.
> That is not the model I have in mind. It doesn't seem sensible to think of
> a universe with a continuous infinity of Turing machines. Instead I assume
> that the universe starts with one Turing machine with a blank (read-only)
> input tape, then before each clock cycle each existing Turing machine is
> cloned, with 0 appended to the input tape of one copy, and 1 appended to
> the input tape of the other.
Received on Thu Jan 28 1999 - 02:15:07 PST

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