Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Kelly <>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 21:14:17 -0700 (PDT)

On Apr 22, 12:24 pm, Bruno Marchal <> wrote:
>> So for that to be a plausible scenario we have to
>> say that a person at a particular instant in time can be fully
>> described by some set of data.
> Not fully. I agree with Brent that you need an interpreter to make
> that person manifest herself in front of you. A bit like a CD, you
> will need a player to get the music.

It seems to me that consciousness is the self-interpretion of
information. David Chalmers has a good line: "Experience is
information from the inside; physics is information from the outside."

I still don't see what an interpreter adds, except to satisfy the
intuition that something is "happening" that "produces"
consciousness. Which I think is an attempt to reintroduce "time".

But I don't see any advantage of this view over the idea that
conscious states just "exist" as a type of platonic form (as Brent
mentioned earlier). At any given instant that I'm awake, I'm
conscious of SOMETHING. And I'm conscious of it by virtue of my
mental state at that instant. In the materialist view, my mental
state is just the state of the particles of my brain at that

But I say that what this really means is that my mental state is just
the information represented by the particles of my brain at that
instant. And that if you transfer that information to a computer and
run a simulation that updates that information appropriately, my
consciousness will continue in that computer simulation, regardless of
the hardware (digital computer, mechanical computer, massively
parallel or single processor, etc) or algorithmic details of that
computer simulation.

But, what is information? I think it has nothing to do with physical
storage or instantiation. I think it has an existence seperate from
that. A platonic existence. And since the information that
represents my brain exists platonically, then the information for
every possible brain (including variations of my brain) should also
exist platonically.

>> Conscious experience is with the information.
> Conscious experience is more the content, or the interpretation of
> that information, made by a person or by a universal machine.
> If the doctor makes a copy of your brain, and then codes it into a bit
> string, and then put the bit string in the fridge, in our probable
> history, well in that case you will not survive, in our local probable
> history.

Given the platonic nature of information, this isn't really a
concern. In Platonia, you always have a "next moment". In fact, you
experience all possible "next moments". The "no cul-de-sac" rule
applies I think.

> If you say yes to a doctor for a digital brain, you will ask for a
> brain which functions relatively to our probable computational
> history. No?

I won't worry about it too much, as there is no doctor, only my
perceptions of a doctor. Every possible outcome of the "brain
replacement operation" that I can perceive, I will perceive.
Including outcomes that don't make any sense.

Additionally, every possible outcome of the operation that the doctor
can percieve, he will perceive. Including outcomes that don't make
any sense.

So it seems to me that a lot of your effort goes into explaining why
we don't see strange "white rabbit" universes. Thus the talk of
probabilities and measures. I'm willing to just say that all
universes are experienced. Strange ones, normal ones, good ones, bad
ones, ones with unbreakable physical laws, ones with no obvious
physical laws at all. It's all a matter of perception, not a matter
of physical realization.

> Yes there is a world in which you computer will transform itself into
> a green flying pig. The "scientific", but really everyday life
> question, is, what is the "probability" this will happen to "me" here
> and now.

I'm not sure what it means to ask, "what is the probability that my
computer will turn into a green pig". One of me will observe
everything that can be observed in the next instant. How many things
is that? I'm not sure. More than 10...ha! Setting aside physical
limits, maybe infinitely many? Given that I might also get extra
sensory capacity in that instant, or extra cognitive capacity, or

So, of course all of that sounds somewhat crazy, but that's where you
end up when you try to explain consciousness I think. Any explanation
that doesn't involve eliminativism is going to be strange I think.

But, if you are willing to say that consciousness is an illusion, then
you can just stick with materialism/physicalism and you're fine. In
that case there's no need to invoke any of this more esoteric stuff
like platonism. Right?

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Received on Thu Apr 23 2009 - 21:14:17 PDT

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