Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 23:24:35 +1000

2009/4/29 Jesse Mazer <>:
> Kelly wrote:
>> Not if information exists platonically. So the question is, what does
>> it mean for a physical system to "represent" a certain piece of
>> information? With the correct "one-time pad", any desired information
>> can be extracted from any random block of data obtained by making any
>> desired measurement of any physical system.
>> If I take a randomly generated one-time pad and XOR it with some real
>> block of data, the result will still be random. But somehow the
>> original information is there. You have the same problem with
>> computational processes, as pointed out by Putnam and Searle. The
>> molecular/atomic vibrations of the particles in my chair could be
>> interpreted, with the right mapping, as implementing any conceivable
>> computation.
>> So unambiguously connecting information to the "physical" is not so
>> easy, I think.
> This is essentially the problem discussed by Chalmers in "Does a Rock
> Implement Every Finite-State Automaton"
> at , and I think it's also the idea behind
> Maudlin's Olympia thought experiment as well. But for anyone who wants to
> imagine some set of "psychophysical laws" connecting physical states to the
> measure of OMs I think there may be ways around it. For example, instead of
> associating an OM with the passive idea of "information", can't you
> associate with the causal structure instantiated by a computer program
> that's actually running, as opposed to something like a mere static printout
> of its states? Of course you'd need a precise mathematical definition of the
> "causal structure" of a set of causally-related physical events, but I don't
> see any reason why it should be impossible to come up with a good
> definition. I think Chalmers attempts one based on counterfactuals in that
> paper, though I'm not sure if I like that approach.

The atoms vibrating in a rock have a causal structure, insofar as an
atom moves when it is jiggled by its neighbours in perfect accordance
with the laws of physics. And in the possibility space of weird alien
computers it seems to me that there will always be a computer
isomorphic with the vibration of atoms in a given rock. This
requirement becomes even easier to satisfy if we allow a computation
to be broken up into short intervals on separate computers of
different design, with the final stream of consciousness requiring
nothing to bind it together other than the content of the individual

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Wed Apr 29 2009 - 23:24:35 PDT

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