Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Jason Resch <>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2009 02:14:04 -0500


Your arguments are compelling and logical, you have put a lot of doubt
in my mind about computationalism. I have actually been in somewhat
of a state of confusion since Bruno's movie graph argument coupled
with a paper by Max Tegmark. In Tegmark's paper, he was explaining
that there is an appeal to many people of associating the time
dimension with the computational clock, but argued there is no reason
to do so, time is just another dimension after all, and everything
being an atemporal platonic/mathematical object any perception of
change is illusory. Later, when Bruno explained his movie graph
argument, it came to the point where we were asked: Is a recording of
Alice's brain activity itself conscious? I first thought obviously
no, but then realized the contradiction with space-time. Could the
block-time view of the universe not be considered a recording?
Perhaps the difference between a recording (like Tape or CD) and the
universe (or a computer program/simulation) is that with a physical
recording it is possible to alter a state at one point in time without
affecting future/past states. Or maybe consciousness is only created
from platonic objects / information or relationships that exist within
them. The appeal of computationalism for me is that it creates a
self-interpreting structure, the information or state has meaning only
because it is part a state machine. We, being creatures who can only
experience through time might be fooled into thinking change over time
is necessary for consciousness, but what if we could make a computer
that computed over the X-dimension instead of T, what would such a
computer look like and how would it be logically different from a
recording (which is static over T), and how is it logically different
from a computer that computes accross the T dimension?

I very much look forward to reading your and others' opinions on this.


On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 11:14 PM, 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.
> 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 Fri Apr 24 2009 - 02:14:04 PDT

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