RE: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Higgo James <>
Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 14:42:12 -0000

What do you mean 'in the first moments after the big bang' - that is a
time-centric comment which makes no sense from the Archimedean perspective.
Why should an integer, namely infinity, not represent the universe? I can't
see why you need anything 'outside' the string - the string can just be a
little bit longer, if you like.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gilles HENRI []
> Sent: 02 February 1999 12:48
> To: Higgo James
> Cc: ''
> Subject: RE: consciousness based on information or computation?
> À (At) 14:43 +0000 1/02/99, Higgo James écrivait (wrote) :
> > There is no difference between noise and signal except in the eye of
> >the beholder. No integer describes anything except in the eye of the
> >beholder.
> This is not very satisfactory...Does it mean that consciousness would
> exist
> with any permutation of particles, for example in the first moments after
> the Big Bang? (see below my remarks on Hal's reply)
> I am not sure what you mean "The simplest program just enumerates
> >all integer numbers."
> >
> In Schmidshuber theory, a state of the Universe is a finite substring
> (between two commas), that is an integer. As the information on past is
> entirely stored in each present state, i.e. in each substring, it is
> independant on the rest of the string. A UD is of no use (I think the
> problem comes from the confusion between the time of the "Big Computer"
> that generates the bits and the time associated with a state of the
> Universe, which has nothing to do with the former one. Of course with REAL
> computer both times coincide!). To generate all possible substrings, you
> only have to enumerate all integers. "0,1,10,11..." What I think,
> however,
> is that a simple integer can not represent alone a Universe:
> >James Higgo, <>, writes:
> >> There is no difference between noise and signal except in the eye of
> >> the beholder. No integer describes anything except in the eye of the
> >> beholder.
> >
> >I would say that there is a sense in which an integer describes something
> >in an objective sense, rather than just having it be subjective and in
> the
> >eye of the beholder.
> >
> >Specifically, if the integer is very large, trillions of trillions of
> >trillions of bits in size, and if it can be compressed down to a much
> >smaller value via computational techniques, then that compression is an
> >objective way of summarizing the information in the integer.
> >
> >Suppose that the integer can be best compressed by treating it as the
> >output of a program which implements some kinds of "laws of physics",
> >starting from some specified initial condition. This integer could then
> >be considered as the result of actually running a universe simulation.
> >This would be an objective interpretation, not dependent on a particular
> >beholder.
> >
> >Looking at this objective interpretation of the integer as the history of
> >a universe, we might then be able to see space and time dimensions,
> >an analog to entropy increase and an arrow of time, causation, evolution,
> >and information flow. We might even be able to identify structures which
> >process information and which behave in the same manner as intelligent,
> >conscious minds like our own. In that case we would have reason to say
> >that, in an objective sense, this integer represents a universe which
> >has conscious minds.
> >
> >Even our own universe can be considered as a four-dimensional space-time
> >structure, which is in effect a static block of information. It is not
> >known at this point whether the universe is fundamentally discrete or
> >continuous, but certainly we cannot rule out the possibility that it is
> >discrete at the lowest level. In that case our own universe can be
> >fully represented as an integer.
> >
> >Hal
> It is almost true, but only almost. The Universe could be discrete. Assume
> you have discrete cells at the Planck scale, 10^{-33} cm. You would like
> to
> describe at least the visible Universe, about 10^{30} cm. If theory of
> inflation is correct, it could be 10^{50} times as large, so 10^80 cm So
> you need at least about N=10^400 cells for a 4-D space time. Well there
> is
> no limitation of available computing time. The problem is not here. The
> problem is that if the principle of equivalence is true, any cell is in
> principle equivalent to another one. You have no natural ordering. So if
> you want to describe the Universe by a N bits string, you have to assign
> arbitrarily a cell to some rank in the string. But you can do also any
> permutation in this assignement. It means that each of n1!*(N-n1)!
> different strings with n1 "1" and (N-n1) "0" are equivalent. Basically you
> are left with N different states instead of 2^N as expected, because of
> the
> high degeneracy introduced by the freedom of the assignement. This is
> because you have no relationships between the bits that reproduce the
> topological structure of the Universe and its physical laws. These are not
> specified by a string (or equivalently an integer) alone, as long as it
> can
> be. So I don't see how the compressibility of integers (which is by the
> way
> generally unprovable) could be linked with the structure of space-time,
> since there is no one-to-one correspondance between them.
> You can specify such a relationship, but it means that the state of the
> Universe is not fully represented by the string but by the string PLUS the
> mapping. The physics is not only in the string, but in the formal
> relationships between the bits. But it is not conceptually simpler that
> ordinary physics, because it doesn't say anything on the origin of the
> relationships. You have only done a discretization of space-time, by the
> way an interesting idea whose consequences would deserve discussion.
> Computation, as meant as a succession of string, doesn't mean anything
> since the information of time enclosed in each substring has nothing to do
> with the other strings (as said above). As I said before, it is somewhat
> curious to explain a fundamental reality by the help of an apparatus that
> exists only within this reality.
> Gilles
Received on Tue Feb 02 1999 - 06:54:38 PST

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