Re: consciousness based on information or computation?

From: Jacques M Mallah <>
Date: Sat, 13 Feb 1999 19:29:15 -0500

On Wed, 10 Feb 1999, Wei Dai wrote:
> On Mon, Feb 01, 1999 at 02:24:45PM -0500, Jacques M Mallah wrote:
> > You are really abusing the word 'explanation'. A better word
> > would be 'ansatz'.
> Mind explaining what ansatz means? I wasn't able to find its definition on

        Ansatz is a term (from German) often used by physicists. An
ansatz is an assumed form for a function that is not based on an
underlying theory. For example, given a set of experimental data that
looks like it is clustered about a line, you could make a linear ansatz
and find the parameters of the line by a least squares curve fit.
Variational approximation methods use ansatzes and fit the parameters.

> > 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.
> Yes we have. I admit that I don't have a good explanation for why strings
> can be conscious, and the only justification I offer for believe that they
> can be is the apparent lack of a reason why they can't be conscious.

        I do not believe your assumptions are simpler than mine. A string
is less complicated than a computation, but it is a greater leap from a
string to conciousness, and the illusions of dynamics and decisions, than
it is from computations to consciousness.

0 --> strings ------------------------------------------> consciousness
0 ----------------------------> computations -----------> consciousness

        You do not assume the existence of simpler physical laws than I
do, and I assume a simpler (since it is less of a stretch: consciousness
is more like computations than like strings) relation of mind to matter.

> > 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'.
> I assume you have read chapter 4 of Li and Vitanyi by now.

        I'm still on Ch. 1; I admit I should find the time to read it.

> The answer to
> your question is to ignore the time direction, or assume all directions
> orthogonal to the tape direction are continuous. This may seem arbitrary,

        Indeed it does. And what happenned to your cloning scheme?

> but as the theorems in that chapter show, the details of the model don't
> really matter, because the distribution you end up with it is universal,
> which roughly means that no matter what model you use, as long as the
> distribution it produces is enumerable, it will not be very different from
> the universal a priori distribution.

        That doesn't seem to relate at all to the above question.

                         - - - - - - -
              Jacques Mallah (
       Graduate Student / Many Worlder / Devil's Advocate
"I know what no one else knows" - 'Runaway Train', Soul Asylum
            My URL:
Received on Sat Feb 13 1999 - 16:30:44 PST

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