Re: The Meaning of [your] Life

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2007 13:48:30 +0100

Hi Mark,
(To the other: I will read and comment the remaining posts after next
wednesday; I am very busy).
Le 08-janv.-07, à 18:31, Mark Peaty a écrit :
> Bruno,
> 1 Thank you for responding. Of course I have no right to expect a
> response from anybody, but I was starting to just wonder if I HAD been
> a bit rude! :-) And of course now it serves me right if I can't
> understand some of what you have written ...
To be sure I have not find your post particularly rude, compare to some
others sometimes. No problem with rudeness as far as there is a
conversation along with the insults :)
> 2 'Assuming the digital mechanist thesis, ...  least there could be
> an ultimate *partial* sort of meta-answer.'
> Hmmmmm, and is there a plain English version accessible to anyone
> with far less than a degree in mathematics?
I have explained a lot on the list, but my links have changed. I don't
insist because I am willing to explain all details again. Few people
realize how quick it is possible to grasp the main math in theoretical
computer science. In few steps you can access to very amazing truth
about machines. It is the contrary in mathematical logic where the
beginning are harder.
> [ En Francaise tres simple, c'est aussi possible pour mois avec
> l'assistance des services Google de traduction. Mais il faut que mes
> responses fut en Anglaise par ce que detruir la lange Francaise a
> cause de mois fut tellment triste a tois et n'aurais pas d'utilite. ]
So you can perhaps peruse in my french theses .... One half of my work
does not need anything very technical except some passive understanding
of Church thesis, and well, some imagination for the thought
experiments. Some people in the list seems to arrive to similar
conclusion, although I take full responsibility for the complete
reversal physics/
> 3 Me here, you there. You are an other to me.
Here and now, OK. I would not take this as an absolute statement.
> And I assume, in light of the 'Tit for Tat' strategy and its intrinsic
> simplicity and empirically tested/modelled effectiveness, that acting
> ethically towards you and [other] others is the approach most likely
> to facilitate the creation of value accessible to us both.
> In plain English I like to put that now as: My vocation is that I help
> others. My preferred method is to Enquire, Inform, Empower and
> Entertain.
To be honest I always fear a bit those who want to help me or others,
but thanks anyway for the good intentions (which pave the way to hell
... :)
> 4 We will all die. There is no good evidence to support any other
> assertion about how we ultimately end up.
I think you are confusing the first and third person point of view,
like *many* since Aristotle made us believe in a physical primitive
This reifies a good animal's instinctive local strategy, but that's all.
Honestly an expression like "we will all (1-personaly) die" is an open
problem. We have not yet solved the mind/body problem, so we cannot
conclude. Then I can explain you with all details why the proposition
"we will all 1-die" is provably "put in doubt" once we assume either
just comp or even just quantum mechanics. With QM this is not wishful
thinking but "terrorful" thinking: a priori the QM immortality is not
fun: each time we die clinically (in a relative third person way), from
our personal point of view we survive in the closer normal comp.
history. A case can been made that this entails a sort of eternal
agony. Of course this can be nuanced too. With comp some weird gap
seems to exist ...
Have you an opinion on QM interpretation?
> 5 ' ... say also that there was nothing before birth. In that case I
> (the first person "I") would have emerge from nothing. ...'  Yep! In
> plain English, rough and ready terms that's it! But actually we can of
> course quibble about what is 'nothing', because 'nothing' isn't
> anything. So a more sophisticated assertion is that each of us is an
> emergent property of, well, the universe. I can be romantic and say:
> this experience of being here now is what it is like to be the
> universe looking at itself from a particular point of view. It works
> or me, probably because I now know how to not take myself too
> seriously.  [Sh*t a brick! One look in the mirror makes that one clear
> -] But I have been disappointed at the number of people who have
> quibbled at the idea.
You seem to take a "basic physical universe" for granted. I don't take
"a physical universe" as an explanation. Worst, I do believe this
assumption is contrary to both logic+arithmetic (and comp) and with the
empirical data. I'm ready to argue.
> 6 That 'I' might 'come back again' ... DOESN'T RING TRUE! To put it
> succinctly, all these ideas of human awareness being related to some
> non-physical entity and possibly being able to endure beyond the death
> of the body are all from the pre-scientific universe: the time before
> this.
Actually I do believe that science has begun when we have stop to
confuse "provable or observable" with "true".
And science has ended when we did come back to the idea that reality =
what we measure (+/- Aristotle). (I exaggerate just a bit).
I know that believing in non-physical entities does not look serious.
But beyond aristotelian brainswashing it is the contrary which is
probably correct. I meet and live non-physical things 24h on 24h
(consciousness, pain, games, numbers, programs, etc.), and since my
birth I have not yet seen a basic physical entity, although I did many
research of that. And then, with comp, it happens that physical
entities are empty of any explanation power. Indeed I can show you that
comp is epistemologically incompatible with the physical supervenience
thesis. I am not pretending this is obvious, and I can understand it
looks weird for those who have never doubt about the primacy of
> There is nothing amongst all of the new knowledge discovered about the
> world through the application of scientific method that lends support
> to any of these soul or disembodiable spirit based ideas concerning
> our awareness.
I disagree there are a lot.
Of course a soul is never disembodied, given that the body is a mental
construct to begin with, as I can argue (it is not obvious, sure).
> The only reason these kinds of ideas still have some kind of general
> currency is ignorance concerning the mind blowing efficacy of
> scientific method and the fruits of its application. 
I appreciate and (try to follow) the scientific method. But the
"existence of physical entity" does only belong to science as far as we
are open to doubt it, i.e. as far as we can accept this *can* be
> ......................... I will now dismount from that soap box, but
> not before reminding readers that the effect that scientific method
> has had on the human species is of the same order of importance as the
> acquisition of versatile grammar. Before true grammar people had the
> ability to refer to things not present but only in the very simplest
> of terms, and to use a limited vocabulary and simple two-item
> juxtapositions to associate a subject with a simple predicate with no
> recursions. That state of affairs may have lasted several hundred
> thousand years. The advent of versatile grammar allowed the creation
> of complex predicates with multiple recursions ie phrases, clauses and
> sub-clauses. This allowed the telling of stories and thus discussion,
> in principle at least, of absolutely anything.
I can agree with this.
> 7 Ask the question: Why would anybody want to reconstitute and let
> loose a person from the distant past?
Could you elaborate a bit. Take your time I will be super-busy until
the middle of next week.
> 8 It does not seem particularly coherent to say: 'There is no
> universe' because this is equivalent to saying that nothing exists
I do believe in a "universe". I do even believe in something very
similar to a physical multiverse. I just don't believe such a thing is
composed of primitive matter. Actually I begin to have evidence that
the comp-physics allows sort or "elementary particles", but they emerge
from "numbers dream" (to be short). Physical reality emerges from
something deeper. I have a thoroughly testable theory, which, albeit
still in infancy compared to QM, already can explain the nature of both
quanta and qualia (unlike QM).
> 9 People who are completely paralysed depend on others whose muscles
> ARE in working order and properly connected to their brains/CNS. Maybe
> this dependency may be mitigated in the future by the creation of
> implants and prosthetic attachments which allow the direct reading of
> brain states to control other prosthetic machinery.
My point was theoretical. You admit that someone can be paralysed, and
according to the existence of some technology, can be able or not to
manifest his consciousness relatively to the environment. But this is
just a point among others. We will have to come back on this in details
if you are really interested in the consequence of the comp thesis.
> 10 '...except when you are witnessing what I would call a
> reductionist view of numbers and machine...' I am not clear about what
> you mean here.
OK, this is a technical point, and it is related to the incompleteness
phenomenon in computer science, and mathematical logic. The part
concerning computer science is readily accessible (even without degree
in math). The part concerning mathematical logic is harder (alas).
> I see numbers as human constructs;
I expected this from what you are saying. It is possible that comp is
wrong, and for the benefit of the discussion I can discussed like if I
was believing that my reasoning could be wrong. The fact is that I have
rational grounds to believe the contrary: with comp, humans are numbers
constructs. In a nutshell, reality is a video game emerging locally
from the "ever existing" arithmetical truth.
> mathematical objects embodied in the logico-mathematical language
> system.
but note that there is a local (first person) sense in which you are
correct. This is why I am glad that when we interview an introspective
machine she is already able to describe many different points of view
explaining those "metaphysical conflicts" between global and less
global (more local) view.
> As I see it, mathematical objects derive their existence and power
> from the way they are defined. Because of their clarity and fixed
> meanings numbers and other math. objects have allowed people to
> express summarised and succinct descriptions of processes in the
> world, where the world has manifested groupings and recursively
> generated properties amenable to algorithmic analysis. This almost
> certainly indicates that the universe is made of parts or processes
> which are constituted at their smallest levels by existents  which are
> many, small, and relatively simple.
I doubt this. To be sure I am stuck on mathematical difficulties and
the existence of "atomic" physical stuff is still an open problem in
the comp theory.
> However the fact that so many apparently completely arbitrary numbers
> [such as ratios and constants] are needed to describe the
> relationships between physical things indicates I think that the
> ground base of physical reality may not be constituted by
> relationships equivalent to integers. Perhaps it is that the true
> constituents of nature are more akin to bundles of connections with
> fractal dimensionality because they are not in anyway static.
Here we could be eventually rather close. I can explain why the "static
arithmetical reality" appears to be dynamic when viewed from inside.
Even without comp we can be amazed by the relationships between "pure
number theory" and physical theories. I will give reference later.
> Our concept and perception of apparent enduring structures and
> identity of things in the world being entirely emergent properties.
... including worlds ....
> 11 'I could even argue (as I do from times to times) that modern
> (post-godelian) mechanism is a sort of very powerful vaccine against a
> vast class of reductionist view of both human and machine' ------- 
> What does that mean?  :-[
It means that the truth about numbers and/or machines cannot be unified
in any complete theory. Both machines and humans can overcome any
normative theory which would concern them.
It means that as far as we are consistent machine we have to be modest
about what we can prove and disprove about numbers and machine.
This is related to the discovery of the universal machine (Babbage,
Post, Turing, Markov, ...) and to Godel's completeness and
incompleteness theorems, and their use and misuse in computer science.
Ok, it is a bit technical (but more easy than QM though). I can explain
more if you are interested. I am finishing a paper on that, but perhaps
I should suggest some books before ... The book on "Godel's use and
misuse" by Torkel Franzen is rather good (I will send a "review" once I
got the time).
Best Regards,
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Received on Wed Jan 10 2007 - 07:48:54 PST

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