Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: 1Z <>
Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2006 05:44:53 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

> Brent Meeker writes:
> > > You don't have to go as far as saying that *computation* is structural rather than
> > > semantic. You only need to say that *consciousness* is structural, and hence
> > > non-computational. That's what some cognitive scientists have done, eg. Penrose,
> > > Searle, Maudlin. Personally, I don't see why there is such a disdain for the idea
> > > that every computation is implemented, including every conscious computation. The
> > > idea is still consistent with all the empirical facts, since we can only interact
> > > with a special subset of computations, implemented on conventional computers and
> > > brains.
> > >
> > > Stathis Papaioannou
> >
> > Unless you can say what it is about a computation that makes it a unique computation
> > to us and what it is about a computation that makes is conscious, then nothing has
> > been gained. Clearly it is not true that we can interact only with computations in
> > brains and computers. We can interact with pool balls and molecules and weather and
> > lots of other things.
> >
> > Brent Meeker
> The difference between conscious and non-conscious computations is that the latter do not need an observer, or an interaction with the environment, to be meaningful. Take a very simple physical system like an abacus: you slide 2 beads to the left, then another 3 beads, count how many beads there are now on the left, and the abacus has computed 2+3=5. Next, you look out the window, see 2 birds land on a wire, then another 3 birds, count a total of 5 birds, and the bird-wire system has also computed 2+3=5. Or you observe a flock of birds of which 2 are red landing on a tree, and another flock of which 3 are red landing on the neighbouring tree, count all the red birds, and that system has now computed 2+3=5. Clearly there are countless physical systems everywhere computing 2+3=5, but only a small proportion of them are interesting: those which are meaningful to an observer. (Whether you say the accidental computations are not really worthy of the term "computation", or perhaps should be called "potential com
putations", is a matter of taste, and does not change the facts).

> Now, suppose some more complex variant of 3+2=3 implemented on your abacus has consciousness associated with it, which is just one of the tenets of computationalism. Some time later, you are walking in the Amazon rain forest and notice that
> ****under a certain mapping****

> of birds to beads and trees to wires, the forest is implementing the same computation as your abacus was. So if your abacus was conscious, and computationalism is true, the tree-bird sytem should also be conscious.

No necessarily, because the mapping is required too. Why should
it still be conscious if no-one is around to make the mapping.

You could say that the potential/actual difference doesn matter,
but the claim that all possibilities exist, is the central
claim of everythingism, and therefor cannot be introduced
as a premise in an argument to support Everythingism without
begging the question.

> Moreover, whereas the 2+3=5 computation is only interesting if someone observes it, the conscious computation is just as interesting *to itself* whether anyone else is able to observe it or not.

Providing it doesn't need an external mapping.

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Received on Thu Sep 07 2006 - 08:46:46 PDT

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