RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 23:18:35 +1000

Peter Jones writes:

> > A classical computer is perfectly deterministic - it wouldn't be much use as a computer if were not. If
> > it is provided with the same inputs, it will go through the same sequence of physical states.
> But here it is not the computation itself that is
> recorded, just the input that drives it.
> > On run
> > no. 1 it could be provided with input from a human, or a true random number generator, for example
> > one based on radioactive decay. On run no. 2 it could be provided with a recording of the input from
> > run no. 1, so that we know exactly what the computer's responses will be, as surely as we know what
> > the behaviour of a tape recording or a clockwork mechanism will be.
> That doesn't prove that a recording is the same as a
> a computation. What you are talking about is
> a computation driven by a recording.

That's right, but with a fixed input the computer follows a perfectly deterministic course, like a clockwork
mechanism, however many times we repeat the run. Moreover, if we consider the recording of the input
as hardwired into the computer, it does not interact with its environment. So we have the possibility that
a perfectly deterministic physical system that does not interact with its environment may be conscious.
And since the computer may be built and programmed in an arbitrarily complex way, because any physical
system can be mapped onto any computation with the appropriate mapping rules, we have the possibility
that any physical system could be implementing any computation. That would be a trivial result given that
we are unable to interact with such a computer and would never be able to use it or recognise it as a
computer - except that such a computer can be conscious, self-aware in its own segregated virtual world.
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sat Aug 26 2006 - 09:20:27 PDT

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