RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2006 18:09:52 +1000

Bruno Marchal writes:
> Le 24-août-06, à 13:53, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit :
> >> I would say the multiple branches are needed to have any *stable*
> >> conscious experience, i.e. to have conscious experience "with the
> >> right
> >> (relative) probabilities"
> >
> > It may as a matter of fact be the case that our consciousness is
> > spread across
> > multiple branches, but I don't see how this would confer stability.
> > When people
> > pray for something, they are actually asking God to prune the
> > multiverse branches
> > in which undesirable outcomes occur. If God complies, in the extreme
> > case leaving
> > only a single branch intact, their future conscious experience will be
> > very stable
> > indeed.
> OK. You also ask this to Russell:
> > Is there any reason to believe that we would lose consciousness, or
> > notice
> > that anything strange had happened at all, if most or all of the
> > parallel branches
> > in the multiverse suddenly vanished?
> I think we would. Suppose you put coffee in a cup. One second after you
> drink it.
> Now, both with the comp hyp., or with just the quantum hypothesis, you
> know there are quantum or comp continuations in which the coffee will
> be transformed into tea (or white rabbits ...). Suppose God prunes all
> the branches where the coffee does not change, then, during that
> second, the probability of drinking coffee, relatively to tour
> experience of having put coffee in the cup, will be zero. I guess you
> will noticed the difference.
> Recall the seventh step of the UDA (in the SANE version of UDA with 8
> steps). You drop a pen, and you evaluate the probability that the pen
> hits the ground (if that is english). By the comp first person
> indetermincacy, the comp-exact first plural calculus, in principle,
> consists in considering *all* computations in UD* (i.e. generated by
> the UD in Platonia where we are supposed to be infinitely patient)
> going through your "actual state" (i.e. the one when you will just
> bring the cup to your mouth), and to see what is going on (from some
> third person pov) in each of the consistent computational
> continuations. If some "comp Goddess" was able to prune, the way she
> wants, the computation or their continuations she could change
> arbitrarily your local physical laws, and unless she decides to revised
> your memory (and thus your actual states) you would notice.

You would if it were the non-miraculous branches that were selectively
pruned, although I guess that it is just this sort of pruning people would
be asking of God (you would hardly need to pray that your coffee remain
coffee). Nevertheless, even if the content of your conscious experience
changed, there is no reason why you should not remain conscious as long
as there was one single branch left in which you were conscious. To put it
differently, there is no way you can tell that some single world / collapsing
wave function interpretation of QM is correct, if you exclude quantum
interference effects (and even that does not convince everyone, as we

> About your question "could a recording be conscious?" Well, let me
> quote you:
> > But WHY can't a recording be conscious? How do I know I'm not in
> > a recording at the moment? True, I am surprised by my experiences
> > and believe I could have acted differently had I wanted to, but that
> > might all be part of the script to which I am not privy, so that things
> > could only have been different if the recording had been different.
> I think I mainly agree with you, but I have some reason to discard
> expression like "a recording can be conscious". If it is a recording of
> a (genuine) *computation* (unlike just a program), you can *associate*
> consciousness to .... not really to the recording, but to the "person"
> having that piece of computation recorded. That is, I think only
> "person" can think. I don't believe a brain can think, nor any piece of
> local "comp-matter". Only persons think, and only first persons are
> aware of thinking.
> Giving your other posts, I think this could just be a terminological
> nuance, but it helps to separate persons and their many relative third
> person (or first plural) incarnations/implementations.

What I meant was, if a computer program can be associated with
consciousness, then a rigid and deterministic computer program can also
be associated with consciousness - leaving aside the question of how
exactly the association occurs. For example, suppose I have a conversation
with a putatively conscious computer program as part of a Turing test, and
the program passes, convincing me and everyone else that it has been
conscious during the test. Then, I start up the program again with no memory
saved from the first run, but this time I play it a recording of my voice from
the first test. The program will go through exactly the same resposes as
during the first run, but this time to an external observer who saw the first
run the program's responses will be no more surprising that my questions
on the recording of my voice. The program itself won't know what's coming
and it might even think it is being clever by throwing is some "unpredictable"
answers to prove how free and human-like it really is. I don't think there is any
basis for saying it is conscious during the first run but not during the second. I
also don't think it helps to say that its responses *would* have been different
even on the second run had its input been different, because that is true of
any record player or automaton.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Fri Aug 25 2006 - 04:11:43 PDT

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