Re: Dreams and Machines

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Fri, 17 Jul 2009 14:00:32 +0200

Hi David,

I comment your post with an apology to Kim and Marty, then I make a
comment to Marty, and then I comment your (very nice) post.

Kim, Marty, I apologize for my bad sense of humor. Rereading some
post, I realize some nuance in the tone does not go through mailings.
Please indulge professional deformation of an old math teacher ...

On 17 Jul 2009, at 03:12, m.a. wrote:

> David,
> I appreciated this post because I'm more interested in the
> philosophical implications (which I'm hoping to find at the end of
> Bruno's
> UDA bridge to Valhalla) of these goings-on ...than in the
> mathematical
> ones. Best,

Marty, I can understand you. At the same time, many discussion have
been more philosophical, and the problem here, is that without some
amount of math, and of computer science, things will look like a
crackpot-like thing. It is almost in the nature of the subject. Big
statements needs big arguments, and at least enough precise pointers
toward the real thing.

You can have a still more passive understanding of the UDA, if you
understand the first sixth steps. Then for the seventh, it is enough
to believe in the existence of universal dovetailer (itself a quasi
direct consequence of the existence of a universal machine).
Then the 8th step alone can help you to have an idea why the Universal
dovetailer is immaterial, so that physics has to be reduced to math
and "machine psuchology/theology".
But then, I will not been able to answer some remark which have been
done by Stathis, Russell, Brent and some others, and which are
relalted to the difference between a computation (be it mathematical
or physical) and a description of a computation (be it mathematical
or physical), and this is the key for understanding that when we
assume brain are digitalizable, eventually we have to abandon the idea
that consciousness supervene on physical computations, and to accept
that it supervenes on mathematical computations.
You know, the discovery of the universal machine is the real
(creative) bomb here. I could say that "nature" has never stopped to
invent it and reinvent it, like with the apparition of brain, of life
and the possible other many big bangs.
Then, it is hard to explain, without learning a bit on numbers,
functions, sets and mathematical structures, that arithmetic, simple
elementary arithmetic, already describes that universal thing which
can't help itself to reinvent hitself again and again and again, and
this in an atemporal, aspatial frames.

Sri Aurobindo made once a nice summary:

What, you ask, was the beginning of it all?
And it is this ...
Existence that multiplied itself
For sheer delight of being
And plunged into numberless trillions of forms
So that it might

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "David Nyman" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 8:38 PM
> Subject: Dreams and Machines
> With Bruno and his mighty handful engaged in the undodgeable (though
> constantly dodged) task

Well said!

> of working towards an elementary grasp of the
> technical underpinnings of COMP, and patently lacking the fortitude of
> these valorous Stakhanovites, I have been spending my time lurking,
> reading and musing. My philosophical position on possible relations
> between computation and mind has long (well before this list) been
> that it would indeed require something like Bruno's reversal of the
> 'normal' relationship between computation and physics, so that mind
> could emerge in some at least comprehensible manner; certainly not -
> per impossibile - in the ghostly shrouds of the 'deus ex machina' of
> 'computational materialism'. Consequently, parallel to the strenuous
> effort ongoing in the other thread, I have been wrapping my mind more
> loosely around 'interpretations of COMP-mechanics' in order to attempt
> a better personal grasp of what it might mean as a metaphysics. As
> always, I need help, so here goes for starters.

This points to another problem I have. The UDA, and probably even more
the AUDA, has deeply changed my "philosophy", up to a point where I
think that philosophy and metaphysics can be handled with the doubting
attitude of the (ideal) scientist, and that this attitude is a vaccine
against the most inhuman aspect of "human science". But then I have
reason to suggest that everything becomes far more clearer if we drop
the expression "fundamental science", philosophy",
"metaphysics" (unless we use them in their original greek senses) and
come back to the expression "theology". If you want, assuming comp,
metaphysics becomes a theology, with its communicable and non
communicable parts. Assuming comp we can already listen to the course
on machine theology provided by the machines.
But then I know that I look over-provocative.
At the same time, I feel that this is important, because, I don't see
how we could ever win the war against authoritative arguments and
fundamentalism of all kinds without bringing back modesty (that is
science) in that field.
When you grasp comp, you can understand that those scientist who
pretend not doing theology are those who take Aristotle theology for
granted. (Actually even a simplification of Aristotle. Aristotle was
more Platonist than we usually imagine).

> Bruno has sometimes remarked (if I'm not misrepresenting him) that
> COMP introduces us to machines and their dreams and I find this
> metaphor very cogent and suggestive.

You don't misrepresent me ... too much. Just that dreams is no more
really use as a metaphor, but as a literal thing. It is a point of
using digital mechanism, and assuming it clearly, and not just a vague
mechanist intuition, which is already at play in all rationalist
approach to inquiry.
If someone accept an artificial heart, he/she does not got a metaphor
in his/her thorax. It is the same for an artificial brain, and
eventually for a purely arithmetical one.

> Certainly it seems to me that my
> present state could coherently be characterised as a peculiarly
> consistent dream - one that I nonetheless assume to be correlated
> systematically with features of some otherwise unreachable
> 'elsewhere'.

So you are a critical realist. A "believer" in the large open minded
sense. Nice.
The key lesson of UDA here is that, although you are right to bet that
your present state belongs to a consistent dream, the 'truth' (a
theorem in comp) is that there is an infinity of consistent dreams
matching your observations, and there is a sense in which you (first
person you) actually belong to an infinity of them. It is the many
dreams aspect of the comp theory, partially confirmed by the quantum
empirical MW observations.

> In COMP, the 'mechanism and language of dreams' is
> posited to be those elements of the number realm and its operators
> that are deemed necessary to instantiate a 'universal TM' (i.e. one
> that - assuming CT to be true - is capable of computing any computable
> function). Given this point of departure,

Well the point of departure is really that I can survive with an
artificial "physical" brain. And the result is that "physical" can no
more be a primitive notion, and that the physical appearance has to be
explained from the numbers, and indeed from their relative self-
reference modalities. This leads to the arithmetical 'hypostases'.

> it follows that machines so
> instantiated would be capable of implementing any computable 'dream'
> whatsoever - including dreams instantiating yet further levels of
> machines and their dreams. With an additional dovetailing assumption,
> we find ourselves in a position to construct a sort of hyper-threaded
> layer-cake of dreaming where, from any arbitrary level, recursively
> nested dreams disappear towards infinity both 'upwards' and
> 'downwards'.

All right. Except that the dovetailing is not an additional
assumption. The dovetailing is already there, like the primes numbers
are already there, once you posit the sixth first axioms of (Robinson)
arithmetic. Sorry for being technical.

> As we 'drill down' into this gateau, we are looking for emergent
> patterns of invariance representing the self-referential viewpoints of
> layers of 'dreaming machines' - their experience and their 'external
> reality'.

It is good idea to put 'external reality' in quote. It is a very
ambiguous notion. It can be the simple pure third person provable
relations among the numbers, like it can be the first person plural
emerging appearance of multiverse(s).
And it can be something in between, all that can depend, or not, of
our substitution level, and of the meaning "we" can give to words
"we", "our", ...
Obviously we do share a long and rich history.

> The lowest level of recursion that any particular system of
> dreaming requires for its instantiation is taken to constitute its
> 'substitution level'.

I guess that I agree with what you want to mean, but I would have said
"the highest level" level required, in the sense that there is no
lowest level. In case of doubt, the doctor can always bet on a lowest
level of comp, just to diminish the probability that his patient
become a zombie. Of course in practice this will cost more money.

> Since which layer of the cake this corresponds
> to must be unknowable from the viewpoint of any level we currently
> occupy, we ineluctably take a gamble if we say 'yes' to any doctor who
> claims to know what he's about. BTW, on this topic, I would refer you
> to an interesting analogy that I append as a footnote below.
> So, what can we take 'reality' (i.e. real, as you will recall, "in the
> sense that I am real") to mean in this schema? We cannot know, but we
> do want to say that it corresponds self-referentially - in some sense
> - to the number realm, and that the true language of the dreaming
> machines therefore corresponds - also in some self-referential sense -
> to numbers and their inter-relations. This 'sense of correspondence'
> can be defined in two ways: 'truth', which is taken to correspond
> self-referentially to the unknowably 'real', and 'provability', which
> is taken to correspond to what this reality can consistently claim,
> express, or represent to itself.

Good summary!

> This is about as far as I've got, and broad as it is, it seems to
> point more or less in the direction of a detailed research programme
> such as Bruno has outlined.

Well, here I disagree in the probably looking immodest claim of mine
that the research has already be done up to the sad point that now,
only math and physics remains. My initial goal, unless mistakes (fatal
or not) has been attained: now we know that the "comp theology" is
science, in the Popper sense that the "comp theology" has been shown
What would be nice is that the Z1* logics leads to new quantum
tautologies so that the digital quantum nature can be tested against
the quantum empirical one.

> I can see that stipulations on 'reality'
> such as universal computability make implicit claims that are
> empirically falsifiable in principle, which is most encouraging.

This is CT, and you are correct, that part of comp is also refutable.
But this we already have good reason to believe that nature will not,
and cannot really refute it, unless quantum mechanics is wrong in the
large proportion.
Actually, I believe that Church thesis can be proved in higher order
logic, but this is a point I prefer to range out of the topic, because
it is not essential, and it can lead to confusions (and it needs even
bigger familiarity with mathematical computer science).
The yes doctor is highly more doubtable, and the main goal consisted
in showing that it leads to a refutable 'theology'. Indeed, like in
Plotinus, both the sharable and non sharable part of physics is
completely determined by that "theology".

> Also, this general approach seems to me to have striking resonances
> with metaphysics such as Bohm's notions of implication and
> explication, as well as MWI.

You may develop. I like very much Bohm, because he is an honest
inquirer. I appreciate him as a respectable adversary.
To keep his materialist philosophy he honestly posit a non-comp
assumption, and he is not attracted at all by the MWI. But many of its
intuition fit nicely with the comp hyp, as we can see by taking
computer science seriously. Bohm, like many, has still a "pre-
Godelian" conception of comp, so to speak. Well I should perhaps
reread him because I don't remember how far he is a (weak) materialist.

> Anyway - Bruno, I would be grateful as
> ever - when you have a moment - if you would tell me which end of what
> wrong stick I've got hold of this time.

Very nice post, David. The only general but key point where I would
like to add precision, if not insistence, is that "metaphor" thing.
Einstein would not have been glad if people told him that energy is a
good metaphor for matter, when all his work consists in a coherent
theory (= clear refutable assumption) where the relations between
matter and energy are described by testable/refutable facts. The whole
point of saying yes to the doctor, qua computatio, is for helping the
understanding that the comp assumption is not metaphorical and that it
leads to a theory which implies the reversal that you are most
correctly intuiting.
You are correct about truth and provability. You may have insisted a
bit more on the first person/third person important , and still
unsolved, to be sure, relationship, and the first person indeterminacy
which follows. You certainly motivate me to explain better AUDA and
its relation with UDA.

I am glad that Marty enjoy your post. At the same time, the point of
my work did consist in making this utterly clear (if not shocking for
those Aristotelian fundamentalist). Clarity in an hot field has to be
technical or it looks too much provocative.

Thanks for this very clear post. You have a good intuition of the
ultimate consequences of the comp hyp, I think.

> Footnote:
> One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had
> come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist
> to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked
> up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you.
> We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous
> things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."
> God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the
> scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this,
> let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist
> replied, "OK, great!" But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just
> like I did back in the old days with Adam." The scientist said, "Sure,
> no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God
> just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

Cute simple story illustrating a key point that most forget.


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Received on Fri Jul 17 2009 - 14:00:32 PDT

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