Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 09:08:06 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 2009/4/22 Brent Meeker <>:
>> The question was whether information was enough, or whether something
>> else is needed for consciousness. I think that sequence is needed,
>> which we experience as the passage of time. When you speak of
>> computations "going from A to B" do you suppose that this provides the
>> sequence? In other words are the states of consciousness necessarily
>> computed in the same order as they are experienced or is the order
>> something intrinsic to the information in the states (i.e. like
>> Stathis'es observer moments which can be shuffled into any order without
>> changing the experience they instantiate).
> Say a machine is in two separate parts M1 and M2, and the information
> on M1 in state A is written to a punchcard, walked over to M2, loaded,
> and M2 goes into state B. Then what you are suggesting is that this
> sequence could give rise to a few moments of consciousness, since A
> and B are causally connected; whereas if M1 and M2 simply went into
> the same respective states A and B at random, this would not give rise
> to the same consciousness, since the states would not have the right
> causal connection. Right?

Maybe. But I'm questioning more than the lack of causal connection.
I'm questioning the idea that a static thing like a state can be
conscious. That consciousness goes through a set of states, each one
being an "instant", is an inference we make in analogy with how we would
write a program simulating a mind. I'm saying I suspect something
essential is missing when we "digitize" it in this way. Note that this
does not mean I'd say "No" to Burno's doctor - because the doctor is
proposing to replace part of my brain with a mechanism that instantiates
a process - not just discrete states.


> But then you could come up with variations on this experiment where
> the transfer of information doesn't happen in as straightforward a
> manner. For example, what if the operator who walks over the punchcard
> gets it mixed up in a filing cabinet full of all the possible
> punchcards variations, and either (a) loads one of the cards into M2
> because he gets a special vibe about it and it happens to be the right
> one, or (b) loads all of the punchcards into M2 in turn so as to be
> sure that the right one is among them? Would the machine be conscious
> if the operator loads the right card knowingly, but not if he is just
> lucky, and not if he is ignorant but systematic? If so, how could the
> computation know about the psychological state of the operator?

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Received on Wed Apr 22 2009 - 09:08:06 PDT

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