RE: Are First Person prime?

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2006 20:28:47 +1000

Brent Meeker writes (quoting SP):

> >>> Every physical system contains if-then statements. If the grooves on the
> >>> record were different, then the sound coming out of the speakers would also be
> >>> different.
> >>
> >> That's not a statement contained in the physical system; it's a statement about
> >> other similar physical systems that you consider possible. You could as well
> >> say, (print "Hello world.") contains an if-then because if the characters in the
> >> string were different the output would be different.
> >
> >
> > I don't see how you could make the distinction well-defined.
> That's my point. Counterfactuals are defined relative to some environment/data/input
> which we suppose to be possibly different. It's not so much that it's not well
> defined, but that it's aribtrarily defined. So I think lz's point about intelligence
> requiring counterfactuals is the same as saying intelligence is relative to some
> environment - a view with which I agree. In the case of reproducing organisms the
> organism/environment distinction is clear. In a simulation it's not.

Sorry to keep returning to this, but it's important. I still don't see how you can distinguish
between the conditionals in a computer program and the conditionals inherent in any
physical system. A computer is a device set up so that input A results in output B, while
input C results in output D. The conditional is inherent even if the C->D branch is never
realised because it *could* be realised. But a rock is also a device set up so that input
A results in output B while input C results in output D: if you push it on its left side (A) it
moves to the right (B) while if you push it on its right side (C) it moves to the left (D). The
rock has this inherent conditional behaviour even if the C->D branch is never realised,
because it *could* be realised if things had been different. If you include the computer's
data in the program then it becomes an inputless system, a self-contained simulation. If
you include yourself, the rock and everything else that might interact with it in one system
you have a self-contained, inputless universe. Both the closed simulation and the universe
(in the absence of CI type quantum randomness) are at least as deterministic as what we
normally call a recording, despite all the conditionals, because it is rather more likely that I
will change a recording than that God will intervene to push rocks around or provide
computers with miraculous inputs.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Wed Aug 23 2006 - 06:30:40 PDT

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