RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2006 14:45:02 +1000

Peter Jones writes:

> > > > > > That is what I mean
> > > > > > when I say that any computation can map onto any physical system. The physical structure and activity
> > > > > > of computer A implementing program a may be completely different to that of computer B implementing
> > > > > > program b, but program b may be an emulation of program a, which should make the two machines
> > > > > > functionally equivalent and, under computationalism, equivalently conscious.
> > > > >
> > > > > So ? If the functional equivalence doesn't depend on a
> > > > > baroque-reinterpretation,
> > > > > where is the problem ?
> > > >
> > > > Who interprets the meaning of "baroque"?
> > >
> > > There are objective ways of decifing that kiond of issue, e.g
> > > algortihmic information
> > > theory.
> >
> > Aren't you getting into the realm of the Platonic forms here?
> No.I am getting into the realms of abstaction. Platonistists think
> abstracta exist plantoically. Extreme nominalists reject abstracta
> completely. All points in between accept abstracta, but not as having
> Platonic existence.
> > Flowcharts are a representation of an algorithm, not
> > the algorithm itself, even if we are talking about the simplest possible flowchart. Three marks on a piece of paper,
> > or three objects, might be the simplest possible representation of the number "3" but that is not the same as the number
> > "3".
> Yes. I only said that what a computation reality is , is something
> *like*
> a flowchart. The point is that what a computaton really is doesn't
> require inpteretation. It is is just *that* particular construction
> of loops and branches, in the same way that a square is a
> four-sided figure.

Well, do computations require interpretation or don't they? Perhaps I haven't been quite clear on this either. I agree with you
that "what a computation really is" doesn't require any interpretation. If it's the physical activity in a piece of matter then the
same physical activity will obviously occur whether anyone observes it or not. If it's an abstraction like the number "3" then
that abstraction will also be valid whether there are any people around to have the idea or not (which by the way is all I mean
by saying that the number "3" exists in Platonia). If it's a useful computation, such as that occurring in an industrial robot
shovelling coal, then it will only be useful if there is coal to be shovelled and perhaps a reason to shovel it. If it's an interesting
computation such a computer game or a spreadsheet it will only be interesting if there is someone around to appreciate it, although
it will still be the same computation if it occurs without anyone to interpret it. But in the special case of a *conscious* computation,
provided that its consciousness is not in some way contingent on interaction with others (eg. the computer automatically turns itself
off or commits suicide if there is no-one around to talk to), then it is conscious regardless of what else happens in the universe,
regardless of whether its designers are all dead, and regardless of who made it in the first place or why.

> > However, this does raise an important point about measure when every possible computation is implemented, eg.
> > as discussed in Russell Standish' book, some recent posts by Hal Finney, giving a rationale for why we are living in an
> > orderly universe described by a relatively simple set of physical laws, and why our conscious experience seems to derive
> > from brains rather than rocks.
> Why should I worry about what happens when every computation is
> implemented,
> when there is no evidence for it ?

There's no direct evidence, as there is no direct evidence of MWI, but as we have been debating, I think it is a consequence of
the idea that consciousness is a computation, and the same computation implemented on a different substrate should lead to the
same consciousness.

Stathis Papaiaonnou
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Received on Sat Sep 16 2006 - 00:46:01 PDT

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