Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 23:41:33 -0700

Kelly wrote:
> 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
> instant.

I think we need some definition of "state". Supposing your brain were a
Newtonian system the state would be the position and velocity of all the
particles. Physically this leads to the next state by the Newtonian
dynamics. But those dynamics operate in a continuum. If we discretize
your brain, say slice it into Planck units of time as Jason suggested,
now we need to have something to connect one state to another. The
states are no longer part of a continuum. In a computer "running" your
brain this is provided by the hardware of the computer. In Bruno's
theory it is provided by a relation in Platonia, i.e. a computational rule.

In idealism, the content of a state consciousness (a Planck slice, not
of a brain, but of a stream of consciousness) seems to me to be very
small and it doesn't so far as I can see have anything analogous to
dynamical equations to connect it to another state. You say it is
connected by the correlation of information content, but is that
unique? Is there a best or most probable next state or what?


> 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
> whatever.
> 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 - 23:41:33 PDT

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