Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 08:36:33 -0700

Jesse Mazer wrote:
> Brent Meeker wrote:
> > I think "meaning" ultimately must be grounded in action. That's why
> > it's hard to see where the meaning lies in a computation, something
> that
> > is just the manipulation of strings. People tend to say the meaning is
> > in the interpretation, noting that the same string of 1s and 0s can
> have
> > different interpretations. But what constitutes interpretation? I
> > think it is interaction with the world. If you say, "What's a cat?"
> > and I point and say, "That." then I've interpreted "cat" (perhaps
> > wrongly if I point to a dog).
> >
> Well, suppose you have an A.I. computer program that's running a robot
> body--if you say "what's a cat" and the robot looks at a cat and
> points at it, and more generally interacts with the world and uses
> language in a way that suggests humanlike intelligence, do you grant
> that it probably has consciousness and that its statements have
> meaning? If so, suppose take the same program and let it run a
> simulated body in a simulated world, and when some other simulated
> fellow asks it "what's a cat", it now points at a simulated cat in
> this world. Has your opinion about the consciousness/meaning-creation
> of this program changed because it's only taking actions in a
> simulated world rather than our "real" world?

No, I would agree that the robot is conscious. For the simulated world
I think the answer is a little more complicated. Of course the
simulated robot is conscious relative to the simulated world, but as
Stathis pointed out, that the program is simulating a robot and a cat is
a consequence of our mapping of the program onto our world. There are
many possible mappings so the program might also be a simulation of this
email exchange in our world. All it takes is a different mapping. So I
would say the simulated robots consciousness is relative to the
simulated world, which in turn takes its meaning from us (and might well
have other "meanings"). In general we rely on the programmer to tell us
the interpretation in terms of our world.


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Received on Mon Apr 20 2009 - 08:36:33 PDT

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