RE: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Higgo James <>
Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 11:29:44 -0000

This appears to be a semantic argument. For binary strings you can say
'matter' or you can say 'energy' or you can make up a word like 'monads' or
you can even say 'consciousness' or 'god'.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Wei Dai []
> Sent: 30 January 1999 05:29
> To: Jacques M Mallah
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: consciousness based on information or computation?
> On Fri, Jan 29, 1999 at 03:10:43PM -0500, Jacques M Mallah wrote:
> > I'd hardly say that only I have access to it, since there are a
> > lot of computationalists around.
> > It applies both ways. I do agree that it's not the sort of
> > thing we can expect to resolve. Like reductionism vs. dualism, there
> are
> > always going to be disagreements, I think.
> The fact that different people have wildly different intuitions about this
> is a good reason not to rely too heavily on your own intuition. My own
> decision to draw the line at binary strings is based on the fact that
> there is good reason why nothing simpler can give rise to consciousness
> (nothing simpler can contain information), while there doesn't seem to be
> any reason why binary strings can't give rise to consciousness. If you
> know such a reason, you should explain it. If you don't then you should
> consider the possibility that your intuition is flawed. (BTW there is
> reason to expect that one's intuition about this is likely to be flawed.
> After all having a good intuition about what abstract objects can be
> conscious and what can't is not a significant evolutionary advantage in
> the environment our ancestors faced.)
> > There are very likely telltale signs that a neuron has recently
> > been firing, which is just as good in your proposal. But suppose it's
> an
> > AI with non-volatile memory. It would still have experiences when
> turned
> > off, or just stored on a CD, in your proposal.
> I agree in the AI case, the CD containing the AI's state will contribute
> to its measure. However I do not see this as more counterintuitive than
> your own proposal, where something similar happens if you program a
> computer to repeatly load the AI's state from the CD and then run the AI
> algorithm for a few clock cycles.
> > You obviously don't need to replace proteins and DNA, just the
> > neural net.
> I meant what are you going to use as the evolutionary mechanism?
> > So where are we going to get that authoritative estimate? I don't
> > really know any computer scientists, though NYU has them of course. It
> > would have to be someone interested, but not so interested as to take
> sides.
> It's going to be difficult to find an appropriate authority. This person
> would have to be an expert in computer science, physics, chemistry,
> biology, and neurology.
> > Again, I'm not seeing it the same way as you. You still have not
> > answered my question: are you proposing that the program must print out
> > the conscious part of the string at the beginning of the tape, then
> erase
> > the rest of the program? Otherwise it is still a substring.
> No I'm adopting the standard definition of a prefix machine (see Li and
> Vitanyi) which has seperate input and output tapes.
> > What about
> > the fact that it is surrounded by other bits in the orthogonal direction
> > from the other Turing machines?
> But the concept of surround doesn't make sense if the spacial dimension in
> the orthorgonal direction is continuous. You can't even give a
> definition for the values of the neighboring bits of a given bit. It's
> like asking what are the two real numbers surrounding PI.
Received on Mon Feb 01 1999 - 03:34:28 PST

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