Re: Consciousness is information?

From: russell standish <>
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 16:26:15 +1000

On Sun, Apr 26, 2009 at 08:19:51PM -0700, Kelly wrote:
> On Sun, Apr 26, 2009 at 9:00 PM, Jason Resch <>
> wrote:
> >
> > In fact I used that same argument with Russell
> > Standish when he said that ants aren't conscious because if they were
> > then we should expect to be experiencing life as ants and not humans.
> Did you win or lose that argument?
> I've heard that line of reasoning before also. Doesn't it also
> conclude that we're living in the last days? If there are more
> conscious beings in the future than in the present, then we should
> expect to live there and not here, so there must not be more conscious
> beings in the future?

I did a calculation based on historical population levels with
exponential population growth and concluded there's at least a few
centuries left, although the world population at the end of the 21st
century is likely to be less than at the start. I guess we'll have to
wait a bit to see if that one's right.

> And also it predicts that there are no
> significant number of (conscious) aliens? Because if there were, we
> should expect to be one of them and not a human?

Remember the Chinese question discussed in the ant paper. There can be
alien planets with greater populations than the Earth, but they must
be relatively rarer than planets containing Earth population levels.

There are other reasons for suspecting intelligent life is rare in the
universe (eg Fermi's paradox).

> Sounds like over-use of a good idea. In this case it ignores all
> other available information to just focus only on one narrow
> statistic. Why should we ignore everything else we know and only
> credit this single argument from probability? Surely, after studying
> ants and humans, the knowledge that we gain has to alter our initial
> expectations, right? But that isn't taken into account here (at least
> not in your one line description of the discussion...ha!).
> I think the problem with Russell's ant argument stems from trying to
> use "a priori" reasoning in an "a posteriori" situation. There is
> extra information available that he isn't taking into consideration.

What extra information do you have in mind? I'd gladly update my
priors with anything I can lay my hands on.

Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052         
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Received on Wed Apr 29 2009 - 16:26:15 PDT

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