Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2009 09:37:56 +1000

2009/4/24 Brent Meeker <>:
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> 2009/4/23 Brent Meeker <>:
>>>> 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.
>>> Brent
>> What is needed for the series of states to qualify as a process?
> I think that the states, by themselves, cannot qualify.  The has to be something
> else, a rule of inference, a causal connection, that joins them into a process.
>> I
>> assume that a causal connection between the states, as in my example
>> above, would be enough, since it is what happens in normal brains and
>> computers.
> Yes, I certainly agree that it would be sufficient.  But it may be more than is
> necessary.  The idea of physical causality isn't that well defined and it hardly
> even shows up in fundamental physics except to mean no-action-at-a-distance.
>> But what would you say about the examples I give below,
>> where the causal connection is disrupted in various ways: is there a
>> process or is there just an unfeeling sequence of 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?
> So you are contemplating a process that consists of a sequence of states and a
> rule that connects them thus constituting a process: punch cards (states) and a
> machine which physically implements some rule producing a new punch card (state)
> from a previous one.  And then you ask whether it is still a process if, instead
> of the rule producing the next state it is produced in some other way.  I'd say
> so long as the rule is followed (the operator loads the right card knowingly)
> it's the same process.  Otherwise it is not the same process (the operator
> selects the right card by chance or by a different rule).  If the process is a
> conscious one, is the latter still conscious?  I'd say that it is.  If the
> selection is by chance it's an instance of a Boltzmann brain.  But I don't worry
> about Boltzmann brains; they're to improbable.

Boltzmann brains are improbable, but the example of the punchcards is
not. The operator could have two punchcards in his pocket, have a
conversation with someone on the way from M1 to M2 and end up
forgetting or almost forgetting which is the right one. That is, his
certainty of picking the right card could vary between 0.5 and 1.
Would you say that only if his certainty is 01 would the conscious
process be implemented, and not if it is, say, 0.9?

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Fri Apr 24 2009 - 09:37:56 PDT

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