Re: Can mind be a computation if physics is fundamental?

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Thu, 06 Aug 2009 12:37:38 +1000

Man this is a tin of worms! I have just done a 30 page detailed
refutation of computationalism.
It's going through peer review at the moment.

The basic problem that most people fall foul of is the conflation of
'physics-as-computation' with the type of computation that is being
carried out in a Turing machine (a standard computer). In the paper I
drew an artificial distinction between them. I called the former NATURAL
that if COMP is true then there is no distinction between AC and NC. The
distinction should fail.

I found one an one only situation/place where AC and NC part company.
Call this situation X.

If COMP is false in this one place X it is false as a general claim. I
also found 02 downstream (consequential) failures that ultimately get
their truth-basis from X, so they are a little weaker as formal
arguments against COMP.

*FACT*: Humans make propositions that are fundamentally of an informal
nature. That is, the utterances of a human can be inconsistent and form
an fundamentally incomplete set (we don't 'know everything'). The
quintessential definition of a scientist is a 'correctable liar'. When a
hypothesis is uttered it has the status indistinguishable of a lie.
Humans can participate in the universe in ways which can (apparently)
violate any law of nature. Humans must be able to 'violate' laws of
nature in the process of accessing new/novel formal systems to describe
the unknown natural world. Look at the world. It is not hard to see how
humans exemplify an informal system. All over the world are quite normal
(non-pathologically affected) humans with the same sensory systems and
mental capacities. Yet all manner of ignorance and fervently held
contradictory belief systems are 'rationally' adopted.
COMP fails when:
a) You assume COMP is true and build an artificial (AC/computer)
scientist <Sa> and expect <Sa> to be able to carry out authentic
original science on the a-priori unknown....identically to humans. To do
this you use a human-originated formal model (law of nature) ts to do
this.... your computer 'computes ts, you EMBODY the computer in a
suitable robotic form and then expect it to do science like humans. If
COMP is true then the human scientist and the robot scientist should be

b) You then discover that it is a fundamental impossibility that <Sa> be
able to debate/propose that COMP is a law of nature.

c) Humans can debate/propose that COMP is a law of nature.

BECAUSE: (b) <> (c) they are distinguishable. NC and AC are different
THEREFORE: ts cannot be the 'law of nature' for a scientist.
THEREFORE: COMP is false in the special case of (b)
THEREFORE: COMP is false as a general claim.

(b) is not a claim of truth or falsehood. It is a claim that the very
idea of <Sa> ever proposing COMP (= doubting that COMP is true) is
impossible. This is because it is a formal system trying, with a fixed,
formal set of rules (even self modifying according to yet more rules) to
construct statements that are the product of an informal system (a human
scientist). The very idea of this is a contradiction in terms. The
formal system is 100% deterministic, unable to violate rules. When it
encounters a liar it will be unable to resolve what falsehood is being
presented. It requires all falsehoods to be a-priori known. Impossible.
How can a formal system encounter a world in which COMP is actually
false? If it could, COMP would be FALSE! If COMP is true then it can't.
Humans are informal....ergo we have some part of the natural world
capable of behaving informally....=> GOTCHA!

This argument is has very 'Godellian' structure. That was accidental.

When you say 'physics is fundamental'. I don't actually known what that

What I can tell you is that to construct an authentic ARTIFICIAL
SCIENTIST (not a simulation, but an 'inorganic' scientist), you have to
*replicate the real physics of cognition, *not 'compute a model' of the
cognition or a 'compute a model of the physics underlying cognition'.
Then an artificial scientist is a scioentist in the same sense that
artificial light is light.


=> Strong AI (a computer can be a mind) is false.
=> Weak AI (A computer model of cognition can never be actual cognition)
is true.

It's nice to finally have at least one tiny little place (X) where the
seeds of clarity can be found.

colin hales

1Z wrote:
> On 31 July, 22:39, David Nyman <> wrote:
>> I note that the recent posts by Peter Jones - aka the mysterious 1Z,
>> and the originator of the curiously useful 'real in the sense I am
>> real' or RITSIAR - occurred shortly after my taking his name in vain.
>> Hmm.......
>> Anyway, this signalled the resumption of a long-running debate about
>> the validity of causal accounts of the first person based on a
>> functional or computational rationale. I'm going to make an attempt
>> to annihilate this intuition in this thread, and hope to encourage
>> feedback specifically on this issue. You will recall that this is at
>> the heart of Bruno's requirement to base COMP - i.e. the explicitly
>> computational account of mind - on the the number realm, with physics
>> derived as an emergent from this. Step 08 of the UDA addresses these
>> issues in a very particular way.
>> However, I've always felt that there's a more intuitively obvious and
>> just as devastating blow that can be dealt to functional or
>> computational notions based on physical entities and relations
>> conceived as ontologically foundational and singular (i.e. no dualism
>> please). So as not to be misunderstood (too quickly!) let me make it
>> clear at the outset that I'm addressing this to first person conscious
>> experience, not to third person descriptions of 'mentality' - so
>> eliminativists can stop reading at this point as there is nothing
>> further that requires explanation in their view (as odd as I trust
>> this sounds to you non-eliminativists out there).
>> The argument runs as follows. To take what physics describes with
>> maximal seriousness - as standing for ontological reality - is just to
>> take its entities and causal relationships seriously to the same
>> extent. God knows, physicists have gone to enough trouble to define
>> these entities and relationships with the most precisely articulated
>> set of nomological-causal principles we possess. Consequently, taking
>> these with maximal seriousness entails abjuring other causal
>> principles as independently efficacious: i.e. showing how - or at
>> least being committed to the belief that - all higher order causal
>> principles somehow supervene on these fundamentals. Any other
>> position would be either obscurantist or incoherent for a physical
>> realist.
>> Now I should say at this point that I'm not criticising this position,
>> I'm merely articulating it. It follows from the foregoing that
>> although we may speak in chemical, biological, physiological or
>> historical narratives, we believe that in principle at least these are
>> reducible to their physical bases. We also know that although we may
>> speak of cabbages and kings, weather, oceans, processes, computations
>> and untold myriads of equally 'emergent' phenomena, we still must
>> retain our commitment to their reducibility to their physical bases.
>> So of course, we can - and do - legitimately speak, in this way, of
>> physical computers as 'performing computations', but following the
>> foregoing principle we can see that actually this is just a convenient
>> shorthand for what is occurring in the physical substrates upon which
>> the notion of computation must - and of course does - rely for its
>> realisation in the world.
>> To be more explicit: The notion of a 'program' or 'computation' - when
>> we place it under analysis - is a convenient shorthand for an ordered
>> set of first person concepts
> In what sense "first person"? Surely not in the sense that qualia are
> supposed to be mysteriously and incommunicably first-person.
> Presumably in the sense that something is only a computer
> when regarded as such, (like certain pieces of paper being money).
> But that is quite contentious. It is not enough to say "under
> analysis",
> one must actually analyse
>> which finds its way into the physical
>> account in the form of various matter-energy dispositions. The
>> macroscopic media for these are variously paper and ink, actions of
>> computer keyboards, patterns of voltages in computer circuitry,
>> illumination of pixels on screens, etc. All of these, of course, can
>> - and must - reduce to fundamental relations amongst physical
>> 'ultimates'. At some point after entering the physical causal nexus,
>> this chain of dispositions may re-enter the first person account
>> (don't ask me how - it's inessential to the argument) at which point
>> they may again be construed *by someone* in computational terms in a
>> first person context. But at no point is the 'computation' - qua
>> concept - in any way material (pun intended) to the physical account;
>> a fortiori, in no way can it - or need it - be ascribed causal
>> significance in terms of the physical account. After all, what could
>> this possibly mean? Are these spooky 'computational' relationships
>> 'reaching across' the energy-transfers of the computer circuitry and
>> changing their outcomes? Of course not. How could they? And why
>> would they need to? Everything's going along just fine by itself by
>> purely physical means.
>> I hope the foregoing makes it clear that computer programs and their
>> computations - at the point of physical instantiation - literally
>> don't exist in the world.
> It doens't remotely. Just because something (eg a horse)
> isn't a *fundamental* constituent of the world doesn't make it
> non-existent in the sense that unicorn is.
>> They're semantic formulations - ways of
>> speaking - that have applicability only in the first-person context,
>> and we can see that this is true any time we like by performing the
>> kind of 'eliminativist' demonstration performed above: i.e. we can
>> eliminate the concept without affecting the action on the ground one
>> whit. Of course, this is the insight that makes the strictly physical
>> account of mind - as presently understood - problematic if one wishes
>> to take the first person seriously, because it shows the notion of
>> 'emergence' to be redundant at the level of causation. It's just
>> another way of speaking, however much insight it carries - for us.
>> However, it isn't my wish to make that point again here. Rather my
>> intention has been to show that whatever options are left in strict
>> physicalism to address the first person issues seriously - without
>> eliminating them - emergence is emphatically not one of them.
>> I hope this makes the argument clear, and also illustrates the point
>> of Bruno's reversal of numbers and physics to save the computational
>> account of mind (and body, as it happens). To be absolutely explicit:
>> if functional-computational relations are to be taken to be
>> fundamentally causally efficacious, they must be held to be real and
>> foundational in exactly the sense (RITSIAR) ascribed to those in the
>> physical account. But for that to be the case, all other causal
>> relations must supervene on them - again just as in the physical
>> account. But now, of course, this must include physics itself.
> What must include physics itself?
>> Now, you don't of course have to accept COMP. But if you want to be a
>> physical realist, it means you can only hang on to the computational
>> explanation of mind by eliminating the mind itself from reality.
> I don't see how that follows at all.
>> Personally, not being committed to such an explanation, this doesn't
>> in itself constitute my problem with current physical accounts. The
>> alternative is rather that physics as an account of mind must be
>> incomplete, or else it is wrong. But that's another story.
>> David
> >

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Received on Thu Aug 06 2009 - 12:37:38 PDT

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