Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 13:49:27 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>>>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.
>>I think it does help; or at least it makes a difference. I think you illegitmately
>>move the boundary between the thing supposed to be conscious (I'd prefer
>>"intelligent", because I think intelligence requires counterfactuals, but I'm not
>>sure about consciousness) and its environment in drawing that conclusion. The
>>question is whether the *recording* is conscious. It has no input. But then you say
>>it has counterfactuals because the output of a *record player* would be different
>>with a different input. One might well say that a record player has intelligence -
>>of a very low level. But a record does not.
> Perhaps there is a difference between intelligence and consciousness. Intelligence
> must be defined operationally, as you have suggested, which involves the intelligent
> agent interacting with the environment. A computer hardwired with "input" is not a
> very useful device from the point of view of an observer, displaying no more intelligence
> than a film of the screen would. However, useless though it might be, I don't see why
> the computer should not be conscious with the hardwired input if it is conscious with the
> same input on a particular run from a variable environment. If the experiment were set
> up properly, it would be impossible for the computer to know where the input was
> coming from. Another way to look at it would be to say that intelligence is relative to
> an environment but consciousness is absolute. This is in keeping with the fact that
> intelligent behaviour is third person observable but consciousness is not.
> Stathis Papaioannou

Good point. I think I agree. My functional view of consciousness is that it's a
filter that puts together a story about what's important to remember. It's needed
for learning and hence for intelligence of higher order - but it's a subsystem of
intelligence in general.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Sat Aug 26 2006 - 16:51:19 PDT

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