Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 2009 10:30:44 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 2009/4/30 Bruno Marchal <>:
>>> Putnam and Searle use the Rock argument to suggest
>>> that computationalism is false: they consider it absurd that any
>>> conscious computation supervenes on any physical activity (or
>>> equivalently no physical activity, since at one extreme the Rock
>>> argument allows that any computation is implemented by the null
>>> state).
>> ?
> If the vibration of atoms in a rock can be mapped onto any
> computation, then there is a one to many relationship between a
> physical state and a computation. That is, you can't say that the rock
> implements one computation but not another. So the rock is a massively
> parallel computer implementing every computation. Furthermore, any
> subset (in time and space) of the rock is a massively parallel
> computer implementing any computation. At the limit, a minimal subset
> of the rock, such as a quark existing for one Planck interval,
> implements every computation. And why not go one step further and say
> that nothingness implements every computation? So you arrive at the
> conclusion, computation exists independently of physical activity. Few
> people seem satisfied with this conclusion, so they try to argue
> either that computationalism is false or else that computationalism is
> true and dependent on physical activity and therefore that the
> argument is invalid.
I'd say that computation is relative to action within an environment.
We say that molecular vibrations in a rock isn't computing anything
because it doesn't act. Compare this to a virtual reality simulation
that includes rocks, people, etc. Within the interpreted simulation
people act and rocks don't. But if we didn't know the interpretation of
the program we might interpret it in a completely different way such
that it didn't even contain people and rocks, or the part of the
computation that corresponded to the rock now was interpreted as a
person who was acting. Notice that in the reinterpretation a step that
formerly was "do nothing" may now be a link in a causal chain of action.

I think the implication for Comp is that, while you might say "yes" to
the doctor who proposed to replace your brain with a computer, you
should say "no" if he proposes to replace you and your whole world with
a virtual reality simulation that will be self contained and will no
more interact with this world.


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Received on Thu Apr 30 2009 - 10:30:44 PDT

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