Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Jason Resch <>
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 02:27:40 -0500

I think in regards to conscious, you can't have one without the other.
 Both information and computation are needed, as the computation
imparts meaning to the information, and the information accumulates
meaning making each computation and its result more meaningful.

If I sent you an arbitrary binary string, it would have no meaning
unless you either knew in advance how to interpret it or how it was
produced. Either interpretation or understanding of how it was
produced can be described with computer programs, but without that
foreknowledge the binary string is meaningless because there would be
an infinite number of ways to interpret that string.

To understand how information "accumulates" through successive a
computations, consider how today's most common processors can only
consider 32-bit numbers at a time, yet like any Turing machine they
are nonetheless capable of performing any computation, including those
involving numbers much larger than can be expressed in 32-bits.

Consider what the neurons do (at least artificial ones), essentially
they only multiply and add (multiply the strength of a received signal
by the connection strength, then sum the received signals to determine
if they met the threshold to fire). At a low level the additions
might correspond to the intensity of one color for one pixel in a
visual field, say the brightness of red. Another neuron might then
sum the intensities of red, green, and blue colors to arrive at a
color for that pixel, while another one aggregates a collection of
those results into a field of colors. Finally this field of colors
might be processed by an object identification part of the neural
network to identify objects. Whether or not an object is identified
as a cat or a dog, might ultimately be determined by the firing of
just one neuron, yet at every stage the same basic computation is done
(multiplication and addition). The only difference is the consequence
of the computation at each stage; how it is ultimately interpreted by
the next level.

So the question comes down to where does the consciousness lie: during
the computation of information, the computed result, or in the
computations upon the computed results. Maybe it requires a loop of
such hierarchies as Douglas Hofstadter suggests. I don't have an
answer but it is something I too wonder about.


On Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:47 AM, Kelly <> wrote:
> What is the advantage of assigning consciousness to computational
> processes (e.g. UDA), as opposed to just assigning it to the
> information that is produced by computational processes?
> For example, to take Maudlin's "Computation and Consciousness" paper,
> if you just say that the consciousness is found in the information
> represented by the arrangement of the empty or full water troughs,
> then that basically removes the problem he is pointing out.
> Similarly, associated consciousness only with information seems to
> resolve problems with random processes interfering with the causal
> structure of physically implemented computations which then, despite
> having the causal chain interrupted, would still seem to produce
> consciousness.  (more on the irrelevance of causality:
> Bruno Marchal has mentioned this in his movie graph argument, where a
> cosmic ray interrupts a logical operation in a transistor on a
> computer that is running a brain simulation, but due to good fortune
> the result of the operation is still correct despite the break in the
> causal chain that produced the answer.
> Conscious being associated with information would also seem to address
> the problems with Davidson's "swampman" scenario, and the related
> quantum swampman scenario (
> 2009/03/quantum-swampman.html).
> So, many different programs can produce the same information, using
> many different algorithms, optimizations, shortcuts, etc.  But if all
> of these programs all accurately simulate the same brain, then they
> should produce the same conscious experience, regardless of the
> various implementation details.
> The most obvious thing that all such programs would have in common is
> that they work with the same information...the state of the brain at
> each given time slice.  Even if this state is stored in different
> forms by each of the various programs, there must always be a mapping
> between those various storage formats, as well as a mapping back to
> the original brain whose activity is being simulated.
> Therefore, it seems better to me to say:  Consciousness is
> information, not the processes that produce the information.
> What are the drawbacks of this view when contrasted with
> computationalism?
> >

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Received on Mon Apr 20 2009 - 02:27:40 PDT

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