Re: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Wei Dai <>
Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1999 15:58:09 -0800

On Sat, Jan 30, 1999 at 02:50:48PM -0500, Jacques M Mallah wrote:
> I am a big proponent of Occam's razor. But in using the criterion
> of simplicity, one must be sure not to make an explanation too simple to
> explain the facts. In this case, the fact is that we have observations
> and seem to be able to make decisions. I don't see how just plain
> information could give rise to that. Can you explain to me how it
> happens that information has such a property? Of course not, no one can
> really explain consciousness. That's a fact.

We have observations and memories of decision making, but observations and
memories are all information, and therefore can be contained in a string.

No I can't really explain consciousness. But I do know that at least
one conscious experience exists, namely the the one I am having right now,
and the simplest explanation I am aware of for its existance is the one I

> Why is that a problem? If you build a human brain, let it run a
> little, then destroy it and rebuild one in the original state, it's the
> same thing. Not so counterintuitive. But the CD alone is different - it
> just sits there. Or it could be a book, with the pattern of memory states
> just printed out on the pages. Or a sand sketch. Wet that sand and you
> get 20 years to life in prison.

Or under your proposal, reboot the computer running the AI infinite loop
and get 20 years to life in prison. Maybe you should ask Intel for a
sponsorship? :)

> There have been such simulations, I don't know the details.
> Without limitations on time and computing power, it shouldn't be that hard.

My point is that you would have to hard-code the evolutionary mechanism,
thus adding to the program length. If you don't have details, do you at
least have a reference?

> Or he could be assisted by one expert from each discipline. But
> how could we assemble such a panel? I want to get those estimates. This
> is a rare case in which it is actually possible to settle a philosophical
> question quantitatively. That alone makes it important.

Maybe we can send the question to some mailing lists and newsgroups and
see if anyone is interested in helping settle the question.

> I'll have to look at it now that I have L&V, but your proposal
> seems stranger all the time to me. Now not any string can be conscious,
> just one on an official output tape? Do you think that other types of
> machines exist as well (perhaps all types), but don't give rise to
> consciousness?

Well read the chapter on algorithmic probability and get back to me. Maybe
you'll have a different intuition about this then.
Received on Sat Jan 30 1999 - 15:59:16 PST

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