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From: Jacques M. Mallah <jqm1584.domain.name.hidden>

Date: Fri, 24 Dec 1999 21:30:57 -0500 (EST)

On Tue, 21 Dec 1999, Gisle Reigstad Tangenes wrote:

*> I guess it's time to reveal the terrible secret: Your list is infected by
*

*> a biological naturalist.
*

Horrors! But then there are already a lot of crackpots infesting

the list, so by comparison, not really a sign that the neighborhood has

slid downhill. But really, why anyone would think that particular

chemicals would be needed to give rise to consciousness is beyond me. I

would even prefer dualism over that.

*> My Searlean objection to the above brand of functionalism
*

*> is, How can computation as such be sufficient to generate consciousness,
*

*> when it obviously isn't an intrinsic process of any physical system?
*

OK, I assume that by "the above" you meant computationalism. Well

there are of course two possible answers to the above. 1) You are

wrong; it is intrinsic; or 2) Computations can exist without needing to be

implemented by a physical system. More on both below.

*> To clarify: There is a distinction between intrinsic and
*

*> observer-relative features of reality. The former include all properties
*

*> that are logically independent of the intentional attributions of
*

*> observers, such as the molecular structure of the object I am sitting on.
*

*> The latter are properties that exist only relative to such attributions,
*

*> such as being a chair.
*

I don't think the molecular structure is as intrinsic as you

obviously think. But let's move on.

*> Note that this is not equivalent to the Chinese Room argument, which says
*

*> that syntacs is not sufficient for semantics; it denies instead that
*

*> physics is sufficient for syntax.
*

Right. I'm glad you didn't use the Chinese Room "argument", which

is just a foolish bit of rhetoric. The problem you _did_ use is indeed a

nontrivial one.

*> Computation and all other syntax is
*

*> observer-relative, and in one sense exists only from a 1. person point of
*

*> view. Please release me from the spell of this simple consideration.
*

I'll try. First a little history: After Searle presented his

argument that 'computation is observer-relative', Putnam picked up on this

theme and showed that a rock appears to implement all computations.

Chalmers then improved on Putnam's argument and proved that with the

standard type of definitions, any system that could be though of as

containing a clock and a dial implements all computations. (For example,

if two particles are moving away from each other, the clock could be the

distance and the dial could be the speed. With the right mapping from

physical to formal states, this system could be seen as implementing any

given computation.)

But being a computationalist himself, Chalmers did not take this

to be a death blow to computationalism. So he decided that the definition

of implementation was missing something, and that adding extra

restrictions on the mappings that were motivated by our ideas of which

systems should implement which computations could save the day. But his

attempts to do this were unsatisfactory.

However, it is my belief that he was more or less on the right

track, and I have also tried to find such additional restrictions. I

admit that I have not been entirely successful yet, but I do have ideas

that I will persue when time allows. My attempts to do this have led me

to consider the shortest algorithms that can produce certain outputs

related to the labeling of the formal states. One problem is that at the

moment, the shortest algorithm that can output a given string is not a

completely objective concept either (see Kolmogorov complexity); but, as I

have mentioned on this list, I have ideas on a possible way to fix that.

On my web page under "interpretation of quantum mechanics" I discuss some

of the above.

I should also mention that there are a few other people (such

as a student (whose name I forget) of the well-known computationalist

Dennett) who have also worked on the implementation problem, but my

approach is a bit different from what others have done.

OK, so one way to be a computationalist is to assume that some

program such as mine will eventually succeed (or has succeeded, as some

think of my competition) in getting the implementation problem under

control, or at least to think that in principle there is a solution.

But many people on this list have another idea: that computations

exist, as such; and that the physical world we see is just the way a

fairly typical computation models its existance. No mapping from

physical to formal states would be needed; the formal states would

already be the existing states. Showing that a typical computation would

see fairly simple physical laws such as ours is part of what is known here

as the "white rabbit problem"; see the posts about that.

Personally I think all possible physical (or mathematical) systems

exist, and that they implement computations.

- - - - - - -

Jacques Mallah (jqm1584.domain.name.hidden)

Graduate Student / Many Worlder / Devil's Advocate

"I know what no one else knows" - 'Runaway Train', Soul Asylum

My URL: http://pages.nyu.edu/~jqm1584/

Received on Fri Dec 24 1999 - 18:32:52 PST

Date: Fri, 24 Dec 1999 21:30:57 -0500 (EST)

On Tue, 21 Dec 1999, Gisle Reigstad Tangenes wrote:

Horrors! But then there are already a lot of crackpots infesting

the list, so by comparison, not really a sign that the neighborhood has

slid downhill. But really, why anyone would think that particular

chemicals would be needed to give rise to consciousness is beyond me. I

would even prefer dualism over that.

OK, I assume that by "the above" you meant computationalism. Well

there are of course two possible answers to the above. 1) You are

wrong; it is intrinsic; or 2) Computations can exist without needing to be

implemented by a physical system. More on both below.

I don't think the molecular structure is as intrinsic as you

obviously think. But let's move on.

Right. I'm glad you didn't use the Chinese Room "argument", which

is just a foolish bit of rhetoric. The problem you _did_ use is indeed a

nontrivial one.

I'll try. First a little history: After Searle presented his

argument that 'computation is observer-relative', Putnam picked up on this

theme and showed that a rock appears to implement all computations.

Chalmers then improved on Putnam's argument and proved that with the

standard type of definitions, any system that could be though of as

containing a clock and a dial implements all computations. (For example,

if two particles are moving away from each other, the clock could be the

distance and the dial could be the speed. With the right mapping from

physical to formal states, this system could be seen as implementing any

given computation.)

But being a computationalist himself, Chalmers did not take this

to be a death blow to computationalism. So he decided that the definition

of implementation was missing something, and that adding extra

restrictions on the mappings that were motivated by our ideas of which

systems should implement which computations could save the day. But his

attempts to do this were unsatisfactory.

However, it is my belief that he was more or less on the right

track, and I have also tried to find such additional restrictions. I

admit that I have not been entirely successful yet, but I do have ideas

that I will persue when time allows. My attempts to do this have led me

to consider the shortest algorithms that can produce certain outputs

related to the labeling of the formal states. One problem is that at the

moment, the shortest algorithm that can output a given string is not a

completely objective concept either (see Kolmogorov complexity); but, as I

have mentioned on this list, I have ideas on a possible way to fix that.

On my web page under "interpretation of quantum mechanics" I discuss some

of the above.

I should also mention that there are a few other people (such

as a student (whose name I forget) of the well-known computationalist

Dennett) who have also worked on the implementation problem, but my

approach is a bit different from what others have done.

OK, so one way to be a computationalist is to assume that some

program such as mine will eventually succeed (or has succeeded, as some

think of my competition) in getting the implementation problem under

control, or at least to think that in principle there is a solution.

But many people on this list have another idea: that computations

exist, as such; and that the physical world we see is just the way a

fairly typical computation models its existance. No mapping from

physical to formal states would be needed; the formal states would

already be the existing states. Showing that a typical computation would

see fairly simple physical laws such as ours is part of what is known here

as the "white rabbit problem"; see the posts about that.

Personally I think all possible physical (or mathematical) systems

exist, and that they implement computations.

- - - - - - -

Jacques Mallah (jqm1584.domain.name.hidden)

Graduate Student / Many Worlder / Devil's Advocate

"I know what no one else knows" - 'Runaway Train', Soul Asylum

My URL: http://pages.nyu.edu/~jqm1584/

Received on Fri Dec 24 1999 - 18:32:52 PST

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