RE: computationalism and supervenience

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2006 20:59:45 +1000

Colin Hales writes:

> > I've had another think about this after reading the paper you sent
> It
> > seems that
> > you are making two separate claims. The first is that a zombie would
> be able to
> > behave like a conscious being in every situation: specifically, when
> called upon to be
> > scientifically creative. If this is correct it would be a corollary
> the
> > Turing test, i.e.,
> > if it behaves as if it is conscious under every situation, then it's
> conscious. However,
> > you are being quite specific in describing what types of behaviour
> only occur
> > in the setting of phenomenal consciousness. Could you perhaps be
> more
> > specific
> > and give an example of the simplest possible behaviour or scientific
> theory which an
> > unconscious machine would be unable to mimic?
> >
> > The second claim is that a computer could only ever be a zombie, and
> therefore could
> > never be scientifically creative. However, it is possible to agree
> the first claim and
> > reject this one. Perhaps if a computer were complex enough to truly
> mimic
> > the behaviour
> > of a conscious being, including being scientifically creative, then
> would indeed be
> > conscious. Perhaps our present computers are either unconscious
> they are too
> > primitive or they are indeed conscious, but at the very low end of a
> consciousness
> > continuum, like single-celled organisms or organisms with relatively
> simple nervous systems
> > like planaria.
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> Hi.... a bunch of points...
> 1) Re paper.. it is undergoing review and growing..
> The point of the paper is to squash the solipsism argument
> particular the specific flavour of it that deals with 'other minds'
and as
> it has (albeit tacitly) defined science's attitude to what is/is not
> scientific evidence. As such I am only concerned with scientific
> behaviour. The mere existence of a capacity to handle exquisite
> demands the existence of the functionality of phenomenal consciousness
> within the scientist. Novel technology exists, ergo science is
> ergo phenomenal consciousness exists. Phenomenal consciousness is
> by the existence of novel technology. More than 1 scientist has
> novel technology. Ergo there is more then 1 'mind' (=collection of
> phenomenal fields) ergo other minds do exist. Ergo solipsism is false.
> problem is that along the way you have also proved that there is an
> external 'reality'...which is a bit of a bonus. So all the
> arguments about 'existence' that have wasted so much of our time is
> actually just that...a waste of time.

That's a very bold and ambitious claim, if I may say so.

> 2) Turing test. I think the turing test is a completely misguided
> It's based on the assumption that abstract (as-if) computation can
> replicate (has access to all the same information) of computation
> performed by the natural world. This assumption can be made obvious as
> follows:
> Q. What is it like to be a human? It is like being a mind. There is
> information delivered into the mind by the action of brain material
> bestows on the human intrinsic knowledge about the natural world
> the the form of phenomenal consciousness. This knowledge
> not a model/abstraction, but a literal mapping of what's there (no
> how mysterious its generation may seem). The zombie does not have
> Nor does the Turing machine. A turing machine is a zombie. No matter
> the program, it's always 'like a tape and tape reader' to be a Turing
> machine. The knowledge provided by phenonmenal cosnciousness is not an
> abstraction (programmed model) is a direct mapping.

>From memory the original Turing test did not specify that the test
subject was a "Turing machine" but rather just a hidden subject who
answers questions, so that the testers have to guess whether it is
conscious on the basis of the answers to the questions alone. So are you
saying that you are confident that a mere Turing machine would fail the
test (you can ask it come up with new scientific theories or whatever
you like), or are you saying that you would not accept that a Turing
machine was conscious even if you did your worst to fail it and it still
passed? If the latter, it would seem to go against your central thesis
that you can prove scientists are not zombies, and can't be aped by
zombie machines.

> 3) RE:
> > and give an example of the simplest possible behaviour or scientific
> theory which an
> > unconscious machine (UM) would be unable to mimic?
> I think this is a meaningless quest. It depends on a) the
> sensory/actuation facilities and b) the a-priori knowledge bestowed
> the UM by its human progenitor.
> No matter how good the a-priori abstraction given by the human the UM
> do science on its sensory feeds until it can no longer distinguish any
> effect because the senses cannot discriminate it (if the UM has any
> what this means anyway - remember it has no internal likfe, no idea it
> in any universe, no experience of its sensory feeds...has no idea
> any thing around it, like a's 'not there'). So this poor UM
> will learn within the confines of its ecological niche that it doesn't
> even know it is in, reach a point where no matter what it does nothing
> novel can be detected through its sensory feeds...Then it will stay
> way for good. To an outide observer it would look very weird. It would
> also fall victim to any perceptual failure not consistent with its
> survival.
> 5) Re a fatal test for the Turing machine? Give it exquisite novelty
> asking it to do science on an unknown area of the natural world.
> science. It will fail because it does not know there is an outside
> Get it to make/guide the creation of novel technology. This is a human
> behaviour that a Turing machine will never be able to do...because the
> humans have not done it yet either.... put the Turing Machine and a
> scientist together and get them to do science on true novelty. The
> machine cannot have any a-priori knowledge of the natural world in
> question because the humans who would give it to the machine dont have
> either!
> This is the real test. Can a Turing machine do science? No way. There
> no 'mimicking' consciousness.... it is an oxymorom as a statement.

Why? This is what I'm asking. You seem to be suggesting that the sensory
inputs of the UM have no real external referents, and it just
manipulates signals according to its programming. But the same could be
said of human signal processing. I don't *know* there is a real world
out there, all I know is that I experience sensory data which I have
learned to recognize as having certain patterns, which I then manipulate
and operate on in order to achieve certain outcomes according to my
programming, such as avoiding pain and satisfying hunger. I conveniently
classify certain patterns for future reference, eg. "fire is hot", and
it is the sum of these experiences which constitute my "model" of the
world. If God made fire cold on Tuesdays I would be confused the first
few times it happened, but I would eventually modify my view of the
world to "fire is hot, except on Tuesdays": and so would any competently
designed machine which had to deal with fire. We think
We have knowledge of an external reality, but even if there is an
external reality and we are not brains in vats all we have is a virtual
reality created in our head which, if we are lucky, is isomorphic with
the external reality. A machine with sensors, effectors, programming,
signal-manipulation ability and learning would ipso facto create its own
model of external reality, and would potentially be just as capable of
dealing with the outside world as a person is.

> --------------------------------
> BTW I completeley agree about the continuum of consciousness. I
believe it
> started with eukaryotes having 'proto-experiences'. In a generalised
> of cognition and consciousness all critters have varying levels of
> phenomenal consciousness and intellectual faculties for using that to
> survive in an ecological niche.... however... this is not the point of
> paper... the paper was to prove that phenomenal consciousness is
> for scientific behaviour...
> Having reached that point in a can then look at other
> behaviours (like tennis!) and other species (like bats and zombies).
> key aspect to the idea is that truly scientific behaviour is the only
> we can use as a real proof in respect of the existence of
> as it makes real demands of the external world and relates them
> in a structured way to the internal life of the scientist in a way
> has nothing to do with the scientist (it's about unknown/novel natural
> laws operating outside the scientist).
> Nobody has ever thought about this like this, have they?.... I just
> this shivery feeling... that maybe I've tripped over something
useful... I
> have found it so weird lately talking to scientists, standing
> evidence for consiousness in front of me...saying "there's no
> evidence..."...:-) is it any wonder scientists can't see the
> evidence...they ARE the evidence!

Maybe so, but the thing I'm disputing is not that scientists cannot be
zombies, but that computers cannot be scientists.

Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Sat Sep 16 2006 - 07:00:47 PDT

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