Re: Dreams and Machines

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 22:12:20 +0200

On 22 Jul 2009, at 17:56, David Nyman wrote:

> 2009/7/19 Rex Allen <>:
>> In your view, Bruno (or David, or anyone else who has an opinion),
>> what kinds of things actually "exist"? What does it mean to say that
>> something "exists"?
> This is naturally the $64k question for this list - or any other, for
> that matter (pun intended). I don't know the 'answer' - of course -
> but it doesn't stop me banging on about it interminably, here and
> elsewhere. Anyway, I'll have another go, but naturally only on the
> basis that anything that follows is just a 'way of speaking' that
> might - or mightn't - be helpful in resolving apparent puzzles
> stemming from linguistic or logical confusions.
> Personally, I find it useful to start from a more primitive position
> prior to speculating about the status of say, mathematical formalisms.
> Like Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Schrodinger and very many others, I find
> dualism to founder hopelessly on the rock of interaction and
> explanatory redundancy. Hence I'm a monist (or a non-dualist) who -
> given the singular incorrigibility of first-person 'experiential
> reality' - concludes that though whatever underlies remains forever
> *unknowable* it must nonetheless perforce be 'real in the sense that I
> am real' (RITSIAR - a gnomic acronym that has surfaced before on this
> list).

Hmm... OK. Nice. Not completely convinced yet.

> Other primitive intuitions are founded on this:
> 1) The unknowable is singular (i.e symmetrical, holistic, indivisible:
> e.g. Plotinus' One)


or unprovable, uncommunicable, that is unbelievable, unjustifiable.

> 2) The unknowable is pluralistic (asymmetrical, differentiated: i.e.
> pattern and order manifested within the One)
> 3) 01 and 02 taken together are of course 'paradoxical' in the light of
> the logic of the 'excluded middle'. This, I believe, is not vicious,
> but rather points virtuously towards the limit of such logics. It
> situates an unresolvable mystery appropriately, rather than attempting
> speciously to dispel it or ignore it.

Hmm... The "excluded middle" is what makes us modest.
It makes possible to prove the existence of some object x by showing
that x belongs to {a, b, c} , without any means to decide which of a,
b and c x is.
The excluded middle principle is what you need to recognize unknowns
and capture them in some set, hopefully not to big.
In the theoretical computer science, and especially in theoretical
learning many theorems are necessarily non constructive.
You abandon the excluded middle principle when you want to build
something, or extend yourself, with the exclusion of the other.
The excluded middle principle is what you need to think and dream
about what you build, and what can follow, and talk on it with others.
You need it somehow to believe in another one. Also, it prevents not
the falsity of solipsism, but the falsity of any doctrinal (3-
communicable) solipsism.

> 4) 1 and 2 taken together must be RITSIAR. For me, this comprises the
> intuition that 'existence' is fundamentally - and only - a 'personal
> and present way of being'. To put it another way, epistemology and
> ontology are enfolded into the unmediated intuition of 'the way one
> is' as follows:
> 5) 1 (uniqueness, symmetry) - relating to an intuition of bare
> 'reflexive presence' (i.e. the whole is 'present-to-self', as "I am").
> 6) 2 (asymmetry, differentiation) - relating to orderings of
> 'motivated self-access' (i.e. an intuition that 'presence' manifests
> in recursive orders of reflexively-intimate self-relativisation. Note
> that this vitiates and replaces the notions of 'observation' and
> 'action' and thereby collapses otherwise infinite regresses. It also
> welds 'causal closure' to an indivisible primitive intuition that
> enfolds - of necessity - both 'perception' and 'intention'.
> 7) All subsets of being, as it were - including the first-personal -
> emerge as a consequence of the 'superset of being' (the '0-personal')
> 'getting a grip on itself' (or better: *oneself*).

Nicely said.

> 8) Taken together, 5, 06 and 07 collapse into a basic intuition of
> existence as - always and everywhere - constituted by a 'personal
> self-actualisation' which is posited to be characteristic of reality
> 'from the ground up'.

? This belongs to the incommunicable part. If you communicate it, you
bet on the existence of someone else, and on something sharable. But
then you do science, and in honest science you share only doubts.

Do you see what I see?
Do you believe what I believe?

> The foregoing treatment attempts to summarise a (well-known: e.g.
> Plotinus, Vedanta, etc.) set of intuitions intended to underpin other
> notions of 'existence' in all its forms - i.e. any other postulation
> of 'existence' whatsoever is parasitic on the 'master' intuition that
> whatever 'exists' must be 'personally present as an actualised
> way-of-being'. So, in this light, what of the 'existence' of
> mathematics, 'possible' worlds, and other such 'abstractions'? Well,
> they indeed qualify in this sense (trivially) in the form of our
> shared 'mental constructions'. But are they additionally present - in
> some other form - *in-their-own-right*?

I prefere the phrasing "is the truth of an arithmetical statement,
like "there is no biggest prime number" true (or false) dependent of
you?" I don't think it is RITSIAR, although only RITSIAR can really
appreciate it here and now.

> One's view on this will
> clearly depend on the way one's theories (implicit or explicit) posit
> how the particular zoo of worlds, universes etc. one favours emerges
> from the ground outlined above. I would dichotomise such views into
> two camps: necessitist and contingentist.
> COMP, I think (but I may be off-beam here: see below) falls into the
> first camp.

OK, at first sight, if I follow you.

> As far as 'reality' goes in COMP, I'm reasonably sure
> that what Bruno (conceding that he is almost always way ahead of me on
> any of this) implies in the metaphysics (or theology) of COMP, is that
> 'arithmetical reality' should be regarded as 'real' and 'present' in
> more or less the sense of 'RITSIAR'.

Eh, eh, no! There is gap! But comp, actually the universal machine,
can explain why a gap is necessary between RITSIAR and the number

> Hence, the 'Platonic existence'
> that underpins COMP is RITSIAR.

Hmm... I think RITSIAR could correspond to the third hypostase (of the

> By this I don't mean the 'numbers'
> and 'operators' that we denote verbally or in writing - these of
> course are just a 'way of speaking' - a language. Rather these
> symbols gesture towards an unknowable domain that nonetheless
> possesses these characteristics in some (rigorously definable?) sense.

If we bet on the comp theology. The ability to be reincarnate through
a digitalizable machine, then, thanks to theoretical computer science,
we get a bit of rigor there. Yes.

> And this domain is inescapably 'personal' - it is 'us', and it is
> everything else, too.

To each machine we can associate the theology of the machine. The set
of all true statements on the machine.
We can associate the science of the machine. The set of all statements
provable by the machine on the machine.
We can associate a notion of knowledge: we say a machine knows p, when
the machine proves p, and p is true.
And other hypostases, including matter.
The machine can discover the gap between some of those hypostases.

It is not "us". It is the views of "us", the universal Lobian
machines, the hopefully correct one.

Lobian machine can study the correct theology of simple correct
machine, and then lift them on themselves, but this need an act of
faith, and this one is equivalent with CT+"yes, qua computatio, doctor".

"qua computatio" is important. Someone could say yes to the doctor
because he thrusts the doctor, and doesn't want to think on
"metaphysical" problems.

> One astonishing consequence of this schema is that any 'possible
> world' derivable from such a RITSIAR intuition of mathematical
> infinities must also be 'real' in this sense (though this is not the
> same as experiential coherence: hence the need to invoke filters such
> as COMP).

Hmm.. in a sense you may be right. Nature has already bet on comp by
inventing or discovering brains, which filter or project. The machine
filters reality like COMP filters the set of theories possible. (But
any theories does that).

> This directly implies something like MWI, or at least 'many
> minds', and the radical indeterminacy of the first-person (although
> this can also be a consequence, in a 'non-computational' and more
> restricted sense, of 'weak' materialism).

OK. Right. Russell Standish made a similar point, with respect to some
part of the movie graph. (a pinch of Occam has to be used).

> Whether one considers this
> is a defect or an advantage depends on temperament, I believe. One
> thing I notice about it, however, is that it seems to ground the idea
> of 'what is' firmly on *necessity*.

The necessity is the ultimate sharable part. It is as important as the
non sharable part, which includes things (statements) true for every
one, yet non sharable or non communicable as such. The sharable (by
those who bet on comp) non sharable part.

> Bruno has frequently remarked on
> the independence of mathematical truths of anyone's believing them,
> but I'm not quite sure if he means that one should thereby take this
> to transcend all notions of 'contingency'.

Not at all. Why? On the contrary it shows that the physical
necessities emerge from a special sum on all the infinitely many
Necessities and possibilities go in pair.
(there is a Galois connection there)

> In other words, does this view hold that the ineluctable, independent
> 'necessity' of mathematical 'truth' is capable of, as it were, of
> *invoking* 'what is' - thereby resolving the Wittgensteinian mystery:
> "that the world is"?

With a gap. But with an explanation why there is a gap, and then there
is the beautifulness of the geometry of the gap, and of the nature of
the gap, ...

> Or does 'what is' merely comprise that which is
> 'contingently necessary'?

Nooo... It is necessary, but viewed from inside it multiplies, and a
part of it becomes necessarily contingent. A bit like when you
duplicate yourself in two.
(but also like when you meet a machine more complex or just older than

> That is, our discovery of its actual
> presence, prior to time and space, necessarily - radically - excludes
> its non-presence, but nonetheless we retain the intuition (perhaps
> incoherently) that - counter factually - it 'might not have been thus
> present'?

I will read this sentence ten times before breakfast. Gosh, that's an
hard one.

> Easy, eh?

I didn't expect this one.

> I don't imagine for a moment that the foregoing is
> compelling enough, or sufficiently coherently conceived or expressed,
> to persuade anyone who isn't already lurching in that direction.
> However, having recently been extending my reading and thinking in
> this area (yet again!) I feel a renewed interest in continuing the
> debate, should anyone feel motivated, which might advance mutual
> understanding just a little (the impetus, I take it, behind this
> list).

Sure, nice post. You still seem to reify a bit the third hypostase,
the universal self, the god within. It is an important one, but comp
makes it possible to take the ONE as a zero-person being, more like
"the truth" (on the machine). Then the other hypostases "emerge" or
"emanate" (to use Plotinus' word) from it, with their communicable and
incommunicable statements.


>> On Sat, Jul 18, 2009 at 11:55 AM, Bruno Marchal<>
>> wrote:
>>> I am OK with all this. It has to be like this if we take the comp
>>> hyp
>> So what are your thoughts on my question as to whether abstract
>> concepts other than numbers also exist in a platonic sense? For
>> example, the idea of "red"?
>> So obviously we can cast everything as numbers and say, "In this
>> program, 0xff000000 represents red". But RED is what we're really
>> talking about here, and 0xff000000 is just a place holder...a symbol
>> for what actually exists.
>> In your view, Bruno (or David, or anyone else who has an opinion),
>> what kinds of things actually "exist"? What does it mean to say that
>> something "exists"?
>> It seems to me that maybe consciousness is actually very simple. It
>> is just a group of platonic ideals, like red, that are related to
>> each
>> other by a point of view: "I like red", or "I see a red sphere."
>> Maybe what is complicated is constructing or identifying a causal
>> structure (e.g., a machine, a brain, a program, etc) whose evolving
>> state can be interpreted as representing a series of "connected" or
>> "related" instances of consciousness. But the machine (physical or
>> otherwise) is NOT that consciousness, the machine just represents
>> that
>> consciousness.
>> In this view, consciousness itself consists directly of the abstract
>> platonic ideals that form the contents of a given moment of
>> consciousness.
>>> It remains to explain the relative stability of that illusion. How
>>> and
>>> why some dreams glue, in a way sufficiently precise for making
>>> predictions about them.
>> Maybe unstable illusions exist, but, being unstable, don't ponder
>> such
>> questions?
>> Obviously we have such conscious beings here in this world, with
>> schizophrenics and the like.
>> So your questions about "why are my perceptions so orderly", would
>> NOT
>> be universally valid questions, because there are conscious entities
>> whose perceptions are NOT orderly.
>> And I would say that even my perceptions are not consistently
>> orderly,
>> as when I dream I often experience strange scenarios.
>> To say that dreaming and hallucinating are special cases I think is
>> to
>> make an unfounded assumption. It would seem to me that orderly
>> perceptions are the special case, and dream-logic realities would be
>> the norm.
>> If consciousness is in some way a result of computation, then a
>> program that generates all possible mind-simulations will surely
>> result in the vast majority of resulting minds experiencing
>> dream-logic realities, not "law-and-order" realities like ours.
>> I think Sean Carroll (who I'm reasonably sure would disagree with
>> everything I've proposed above, but still) had a pretty good point on
>> such "counter-intuitive" predictions:
>> "The same logic applies, for example, to the highly contentious case
>> of the multiverse. The multiverse isn’t, by itself, a theory; it’s a
>> prediction of a certain class of theories. If the idea were simply
>> “Hey, we don’t know what happens outside our observable universe, so
>> maybe all sorts of crazy things happen,” it would be laughably
>> uninteresting. By scientific standards, it would fall woefully short.
>> But the point is that various theoretical attempts to explain
>> phenomena that we directly observe right in front of us — like
>> gravity, and quantum field theory — lead us to predict that our
>> universe should be one of many, and subsequently suggest that we take
>> that situation seriously when we talk about the “naturalness” of
>> various features of our local environment. The point, at the moment,
>> is not whether there really is or is not a multiverse; it’s that the
>> way we think about it and reach conclusions about its plausibility is
>> through exactly the same kind of scientific reasoning we’ve been
>> using
>> for a long time now. Science doesn’t pass judgment on phenomena; it
>> passes judgment on theories."
>> So, I could continue further and go into a lengthy defense of why I
>> think this supports what I'm saying, BUT maybe you'll come to the
>> same
>> conclusion I have and I can save myself a lot of typing! So, I'll
>> just try that approach first.
> >

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Received on Wed Jul 22 2009 - 22:12:20 PDT

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