Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 2009 17:10:02 +0200

Many people believe something like

objectivity = serious, truth, rationality etc.
subjectivity = not serious, childish, unscientific, irrational

when truth is (if I can say, to be short):

subjectivity = what you cannot doubt, what you know, truth
objectivity = hypothetical, theoretical, but sharable, learnable and
refutable. You have to doubt the theories, and you have to take them
seriously so as to clarify them, and doubt them even more, up to
their replacement.

Now, that confusion is made greater when you begin to make objective
(doubtable) theories on subjectivity (undoubtable).

It is good to keep always in mind that

subjectivity = undoubtable (not improvable)
objectivity = doubtable (improvable)

This can be made more precise in the language and theorems/non-
theorems of the universal machine which introspects herself. This is
really the AUDA thing .... Plato, Descartes and Popper have grasped
similar things, imo.


On 14 Jun 2009, at 03:40, David Nyman wrote:

> On Apr 24, 4:39 pm, Bruno Marchal <> wrote:
>> Any content of consciousness can be an illusion. Consciousness itself
>> cannot, because without consciousness there is no more illusion at
>> all.
> - just catching up with the thread, but I feel compelled to comment
> that this is beautifully and clearly put. Why does this insight
> escape so many whose grasp of logic in other respects seems quite
> adequate? The word 'illusion' is often brandished in a scarily
> 'eliminative' way, but those who do so seem quite
> 'unconscious' (ironically) that the subtle knife they wield for this
> excision is precisely that which they seek to excise!
> David
>> On 24 Apr 2009, at 06:14, 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."
>> First person experience and third person experiment. Glad to hear
>> Chalmers accept this at last.
>> In UDA, inside/outside are perfectly well defined in a pure third
>> person way: inside (first person) = memories annihilated and
>> reconstructed in classical teleportation, outside = the view outside
>> the teleporter. In AUDA I use the old classical definition by Plato
>> in
>> the Theaetetus.
>>> 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".
>> I don't think so. The only "time" needed is the discrete order on the
>> natural numbers. An interpreter is needed to play the role of the
>> person who gives some content to the information handled through his
>> local "brain". (For this I need also addition and multiplication).
>>> 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).
>> The advantage is that we have the tools to derive physics in a way
>> which is enough precise for testing the comp hypothesis. Physics has
>> became a branch of computer's psychology or theology.
>>> At any given instant that I'm awake, I'm
>>> conscious of SOMETHING.
>> To predict something, the difficulty is to relate that consciousness
>> to its computational histories. Physics is given by a measure of
>> probability on those comp histories.
>>> 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.
>> Which cannot be maintained with the comp hyp. Your consciousness is
>> an
>> abstract type related to all computations going through your current
>> state.
>>> 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.
>> OK. But it is a very special form of information. Consciousness is
>> really the qualia associated to your belief in some reality. It is a
>> bet on self-consistency: it speed up your reaction time relatively to
>> your most probable histories.
>>> 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.
>> You make the same error than those who confuse a universal dovetailer
>> with a counting algorithm or the babel library. The sequence:
>> 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, ... , or 00 01 10 11 100 101 110 111 go through all
>> description of all information, but it lacks the infinitely subtle
>> redundancy contained in the space of all computations (the universal
>> dovetaling). You work in N, succ, you lack addition and
>> multiplication, needed for having a notion of interpreter or
>> universal
>> machine, the key entity capable of giving content to its information
>> structure. This is needed to have a coherent internal interpretation
>> of computerland.
>>>> 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.
>> By definition, indeed, once we want to quantify the first person
>> indeterminacy.
>> "next moment" makes sense only relatively to (universal) machine. It
>> is the "next step" relatively to some computation and thus universal
>> machine interpreting that "machine".
>> The cul-de-sac/no-cul-de-sac depends on the points of view adopted by
>> the machine itself.
>>>> 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.
>> Not in the relative way. You have to explain why you see apples
>> falling from a tree, and not any arbitrary information-theoretical
>> data.
>>> Including outcomes that don't make any sense.
>> You have to explain why they are *rare*. If not your theory does not
>> explain why you put water on the gas and not in the fridge when you
>> want a cup of coffee.
>>> 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.
>> Indeed.
>>> Thus the talk of
>>> probabilities and measures. I'm willing to just say that all
>>> universes are experienced.
>> That is absolutely true. But we don't live in the absolute (except
>> perhaps with salvia :). We live in the relative worlds/states. I
>> cannot go to my office by flying through the window. The probability
>> that I end up in an hospital is far greater than arriving in piece to
>> my job place.
>>> 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.
>> That is true, but we want to explain "the stable appearance of atoms
>> and galaxies", and what happens when we die.
>>>> 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.
>> The comp theory explains why we cannot explain consciousness, nor
>> truth. But we can bet on computational states, then the thought
>> experiments show that physics is derivable from computer science/
>> number theory in term of probabilities, and we can compare those
>> probabilities with the one we extract from the long observation of
>> our
>> neighborhoods. Comp is a concrete testable theory, but we have to
>> derive the physics from it to do so. There is a gift because it gives
>> a complete arithmetical interpretation of an earlier type of theory
>> like Plotinus theology, which does not eliminate the person like
>> modern materialism, comp lead to a natural distinction between truth
>> about us, and provable by us.
>>> But, if you are willing to say that consciousness is an illusion,
>>> then
>>> you can just stick with materialism/physicalism and you're fine.
>> You are right. But consciousness is the only thing I have no doubt
>> about. The *only* undoubtable thing. The fixed point of the cartesian
>> systematic doubting attitude. A theory which eliminate my first
>> person, or my consciousness, although irrefutable by me, is wrong, I
>> hope, I hope it to be wrong for you too. (Why would I send a post on
>> consciousness to a zombie?)
>>> In
>>> that case there's no need to invoke any of this more esoteric stuff
>>> like platonism. Right?
>> Right. Materialism is a trick based on a lie (consciousness, and thus
>> pain, suffering are illusions) and an illusion (there is matter).
>> This
>> is used to stop fundamental inquiry. It is not a coincidence that
>> authoritative theologies insists on materialism so much. Before
>> Darwinism God created the man, after Darwinism God created the
>> matter.
>> Assuming comp, couple matter-man
>> Any content of consciousness can be an illusion. Consciousness itself
>> cannot, because without consciousness there is no more illusion at
>> all.
>> Best,
>> Bruno
> >

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Received on Sun Jun 14 2009 - 17:10:02 PDT

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