RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006 09:53:10 +1000

Peter Jones writes:

> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > Peter Jones writes:
> >
> > > Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > >
> > > > If every computation is implemented everywhere anyway, this is equivalent to the situation where every
> > > > computation exists as a platonic object, or every computation exists implemented on some computer or
> > > > brain in a material multiverse.
> > >
> > > But if implementing a particular computation depends on an observer, or
> > > a dicitonary,
> > > or somesuch, it is not the case that everything implements every
> > > computation unless
> > > it can be shown that evey dictionary somehow exists as well.
> >
> > The computation provides its own observer if it is conscious, by definition.
> But "providing its own observer", if computationalism is true,
> must be a computational property, ie. a property possesed
> only by particular programmes. However, if any system
> can be interpreted as running every programme, everysystems
> has the self-observation property, if interpretedt he right way.
> IOW, one you introduce interpretation-dependence, you can't get away
> from it.

That's right: if there is at least one physical system, then every computation is implemented, although we can only
interact with them at our level if they are implemented on a conventional brain or computer, which means we have
the means to interpret them at hand. The non-conscious computations are "there" in the trivial sense that a block of
marble contains every possible statue of a given size. The conscious computations, on the other hand, are there and
self-aware even though we cannot interact with them, just as all the statues in a block of marble would be conscious
if statues were conscious and being embedded in marble did not render them unconscious.

> > If it isn't conscious then it's a matter
> > of taste whether you say it is implemented, but trivially or uselessly, in the absence of an observer, or it isn't
> > implemented at all in the absence of an observer. Conscious computations are the interesting case - if indeed
> > computations can be conscious.
> > > > The dynamism part can be provided by a simple physical system such as the idle passage of time.
> > > > If you allow for parallel processing you don't need much time either. This leads to a situation whereby
> > > > every computation is implemented by universe with a single electron
> > >
> > > What is parallel about a single electron ?
> >
> > If a physical system passing through a series of states in a given time interval can implement more than one
> > computation,
> Do you mean serially , or in terms of multiple dictionaries ?

In that the one series of physical states can have multiple interpretations under multiple dictionaries.

> > then it can be seen as implementing more than one computation simultaneously during the
> > given interval.
> AFAICS that is only true in terms of dictionaries.

Right: without the dictionary, it's not very interesting or relevant to *us*. If we were to actually map a random physical
process onto an arbitrary computation of interest, that would be at least as much work as building and programming a
conventional computer to carry out the computation. However, doing the mapping does not make a difference to the
*system* (assuming we aren't going to use it to interact with it). If we say that under a certain interpretation - here it
is, printed out on paper - the system is implementing a conscious computation, it would still be implementing that
computation if we had never determined and printed out the interpretation.
> But then you don't have a one electron universe....
> (it is important to distinguish the idea that any physical system COULD
> implement
> any computation IF it were interpreted with the right dictionary
> form the idea that it actually IS implementing every computaiton.
> With hypothetical dictionaries, you have only hypothetical
> computations).

Indeed, until the interpretation is determined, the implementation is only a triviality - except if the computation is
self-aware, in which case what we think of it is not going to make any difference unless we plan to interact with it.

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 Mon Sep 04 2006 - 19:55:02 PDT

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