Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Kelly Harmon <>
Date: Thu, 28 May 2009 03:02:03 -0400

On Wed, May 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM, Bruno Marchal <> wrote:
> Since you told me that you accept comp, after all, and do no more
> oppose it to your view, I think we agree, at least on many things.
> Indeed you agree with the hypothesis, and your philosophy appears to
> be a consequence of the hypothesis.


> It remains possible that we have a disagreement concerning the
> probability, and this has some importance, because it is the use of
> probability (or credibility) which makes the consequences of comp
> testable. More in the comment below.

So my only problem with the usual view of probability is that it
doesn't seem to me to emerge naturally from a platonic theory of
conscious. Is your proposal something that would conceivably be
arrived at by a rational observer in one of the (supposedly) rare
worlds where white rabbits are common? Does it have features that
would lead one to predict the absence of white rabbits, or does it
just offer a way to explain their absence after the fact?

As I mentioned before, assuming computationalism it seems to me that
it is theoretically possible to create a computer simulation that
would manifest any imaginable conscious entity observing any
imaginable "world", including schizophrenic beings observing
psychedelic realities. So, then further assuming Platonism, all of
these strange experiences should exist in Platonia. Along with all
possible normal experiences.

I don't see any obvious, non-"ad hoc" mechanism to eliminate or
minimize strange experiences relative to normal experiences, and I
don't think adding one is justified just for that purpose, or even
necessary since an unconstrained platonic theory does have the obvious
virtue of saying that there will always be Kellys like myself who have
never seen white rabbits.

As for your earlier questions about how you should bet, I have two responses.

First that there exists a Bruno who will make every possible bet.
One particular Bruno will make his bet on a whim, while another Bruno
will do so only after long consideration, and yet another will make a
wild bet in a fit of madness. Each Bruno will "feel" like he made a
choice, but actually all possible Brunos exist, so all possible bets
are made, for all possible subjectively "felt" reasons.

Second, and probably more helpfully, I'll quote this paper
( by
David Papineau, which sounds reasonable to me:

"But many minds theorists can respond that the logic of statistical
inference is just the same on their view as on the conventional view.
True, on their view in any repeated trial all the different possible
sequences of results can be observed, and so some attempts to infer
the probability from the observed frequency will get it wrong. Still,
any particular mind observing any one of these sequences will reason
just as the conventional view would recommend: note the frequency,
infer that the probability is close to the frequency, and hope that
you are not the unlucky victim of an improbable sample. Of course the
logic of this kind of statistical inference is itself a matter of
active philosophical controversy. But it will be just the same
inference on both the many minds and the conventional view.


It is worth observing that, on the conventional view, what agents want
from their choices are the desired results, rather than that these
results be objectively probable (a choice that makes the results
objectively probable, but unluckily doesn't produce them, doesn't give
you what you want). Given this, there is room to raise the question:
why are rational agents well-advised to choose actions that make their
desired results objectively probable? Rather surprisingly, is no good
answer to this question. (After all, you can't assume you will get
what you want if you so choose.) From Pierce on, philosophers have
been forced to conclude that it is simply a primitive fact about
rational choice that you ought to weight future possibilities
according to known objective probabilities in making decisions.

The many minds view simply says the same thing. Rational agents ought
to choose those actions which will maximize the known objective
probability of desired results. As to why they ought to do this,
there is no further explanation. This is simply a basic truth about
rational choice.


I supect that this basic truth actually makes more sense on the many
minds view than on the conventional view. For on the conventional
view there is a puzzle about the relation between this truth and the
further thought that ultimate success in action depends on desired
results actually occurring. On the many minds view, by contrast,
there is no such further thought, since all possible results occur,
desired and undesired, and so no puzzle: in effect there is only one
criterion of success in action, namely, maximizing the known objective
probability of desired results. However, this is really the subject
for another paper, not least because the idea that agents ought to
maximize the known objective probability of desired results itself
hides a number of complexities which I have been skating over here."

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Received on Thu May 28 2009 - 03:02:03 PDT

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