RE: Bruno's argument

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2006 10:05:37 +1000

Peter Jones writes:

> A computation is not a series of states. A computation is an
> implementation
> of an algorithm, and algorithms include conditional statements which
> must be modelled by something with counterfactual behaviour --
> by something which *could have* execute the other branch.

Whatever else a computation is, it is a series of states. My computer
is going through a series of physical states, with the earlier states
determining the later states. If the earlier states were different, then
the later states would also be different, hence the computer handles
counterfactuals. However, this is so with any physical system: it goes
through a series of states, the earlier states determine the later states
following the laws of physics, and had the earlier states been different,
so would the later states. Now, I suppose you would say that the states
in a rock are random, while those in a computer are not. But what is to
stop someone from designing a computer so that there is no pattern to
its internal states unless you have the key? Suppose you find two
inputless electronic devices, powered up, with complex and at first glance
random currents circulating in their internal components. One of these
devices is in fact implementing a computation, deliberately scrambled
to keep it secret from prying eyes, while the other is just a decoy with
random electrical activity. Without access to the key, would you be able
to tell which is which?

Another question: I can see why a computer should be able to handle
counterfactuals if it is to be of practical use, but what is wrong with
saying that a recording implements a computation, whether that is
adding two numbers or having a conscious experience?

Stathis Papaioannou
Be one of the first to try Windows Live Mail.
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at
Received on Tue Aug 01 2006 - 20:08:12 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:11 PST