RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 15:05:40 +1000

Peter Jones writes:

[quoting Russell Standish]
> > > The Game of Life is known to be Turing complete. However, I do not
> > > think any arrangement of dots in GoL could be conscious. Rather there
> > > is an arrangement that implements a universal dovetailer. The UD is
> > > quite possibly enough to emulate the full Multiverse (this is sort of where
> > > Bruno's partail results are pointing), which we know contain conscious
> > > processes.

[quoting SP]
> > That's putting it inversely compared to my (naive) understanding of how the UD works.
> > I would have said
> > (a) some programs are associated with consciousness
> > (b) the UD emulates all programs
> > (c) hence, the UD emulates all the conscious programs
> >
> > In particular, I would have said that some sequence of frames in GoL is associated with
> > a particular consciousness that can interact with the universe providing the substrate of
> > its implementation, because we can observe the patterns, maybe even link them to real
> > world events.
> That is a strange passage. Are you saying that the links would
> be
> a) causal
> b) coincidental
> c) there is no difference between a) and b).

The links would be causal in the normal sense of the word, i.e. the computer running GoL is an
electronic device following the laws of physics, and we could link its output to real world events
in the usual way that we interface with electronic computers.
> > This does not necessarily mean that the consciousness is caused by or
> > supervenes on the pattern of dots, any more that the number 3 is caused by or supervenes
> > on a collection of 3 objects. If anything, it could be the other way around: the GoL pattern
> > supervenes on, or is isomorphic with, the consciousness which resides in Platonia.
> ????

Well, this is the whole problem we have been discussing these past few weeks. The computer
exhibits intelligent behaviour and we conclude that it is probably conscious. The physical
states of the computer are clearly the cause of its behaviour, and the means whereby we
can observe it or interact with it, but is it correct to say that the physical states are the cause
of its *consciousness*? At first glance, the answer is "yes". But what about a computer which
goes through exactly the same physical states as part of a recording, as discussed in my other
posts? If you say this is not conscious, you have a problem, because identical electrical activity
in the computer's circuitry would then on one occasion cause consciousness and on another
occasion not. If you say it is conscious, then you have to allow that a recording or an inputless
machine can be conscious, something many computationalists are loathe to do.

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 Sat Aug 26 2006 - 01:07:34 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:12 PST