Re: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Jacques M Mallah <>
Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 14:24:45 -0500

On Sat, 30 Jan 1999, Wei Dai wrote:
> 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.

> 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
> gave.

        You are really abusing the word 'explanation'. A better word
would be 'ansatz'.
        Do you want to know why am I not a dualist? It's because I don't
believe in zombies. A zombie is a hypothetical being physically identical
to a human but without consciousness. Such a being would deny that he
lacks consciousness, he would marvel at his ability to see qualia such as
the colors red and blue, and would be motivated to find a theory of
consciousness just as his human counterpart would.
        It is not plausible to me that such behavior, and the internal
functioning that generates it, is not connected to consciousness, at least
for a suitable class of internal functionings.
        Dynamics and decisions play a crucial role in this arguement. I
am not pulling them out of a hat. I believe that this argument makes
computationalism plausible, not merely an ansatz.
        We've had this conversation before.

> > 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.

        Far from ideal, but our resources are rather limited. Less
likely is that maybe we could somehow draw the interest of someone at the
Santa Fe Institute (

        I notice you have not answered my questions regarding the effect
of other bits, such as those in the time direction, on your 'special'
designated 'output strings'.

                         - - - - - - -
              Jacques Mallah (
       Graduate Student / Many Worlder / Devil's Advocate
"I know what no one else knows" - 'Runaway Train', Soul Asylum
            My URL:
Received on Mon Feb 01 1999 - 11:30:40 PST

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