Re: Fwd: Implementation/Relativity

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 15:03:25 +1000 (EST)

> Russell Standish <>:
> > conciousness we experience directly ... generated by some kind of
> > self-referential process ... is intrinsically a different to
> > the Turing type tests we perform to attribute conciousness in
> > external objects.
> > ...
> > nor do I think it a particularly useful way of
> > thinking.
> But it is enormously useful for deciding whether to deal with
> particular robots as conscious!

I don't see any problem in attributing consciousness to a robot that
convinces me that it is conscious, in just the same way as I attribute
consciousness to a dog. Animal consciousness such as a dogs only
appear to differ in degree rather than in kind to me. On the other
hand a supposed conscious rock would truly differ in kind, as the
attribution of consciousness gives us no predictive power on their

I also agree with the idea that consciousness is a relative property,
one that is in the eye of the beholder. In the eye of this beholder,
"free will" is an essential property of consciousness, and its hard
for me to see how a Turing machine could have free will. Of course, it
is not necessary to construct robots from Turing machines, but most
likely they will be able to simulate a Turing machine, as the human
brain can do. I really suspect that the human brain is capable of more
than a Turing machine can do.

The simplest operation I can think of that Turing machines can't do is
generate true random numbers (real computers can do this, albeit in
usually in very kludgy ways). I'm not entirely sure that the human
brain can generate truly random numbers either, but probably it
can. This is why I speculate that the random number generator may be
necessary and sufficient for "free will".

> Yours isn't. Your quest already has a few centuries of western
> philosophy of mind under its belt, and is no closer to finding the
> objective qualities that constitute consciousness. Like the effort
> to define the properties of phlogiston or the luminiferous ether,
> it doesn't work because its subject matter is an abstraction that
> changes with viewpoint.

And you a proposing that considering rocks as conscious will help find
these qualities too?

Dr. Russell Standish Director
High Performance Computing Support Unit,
University of NSW Phone 9385 6967
Sydney 2052 Fax 9385 6965
Room 2075, Red Centre
Received on Tue Jul 27 1999 - 22:05:21 PDT

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