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

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 17:08:38 +1000

Bruno Marchal wrote:
> On 06 Aug 2009, at 04:37, Colin Hales wrote:
>> 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
>> The idea is that if COMP is true then there is no distinction between
>> AC and NC. The distinction should fail.
> Why? COMP entails that physics cannot be described by a computation,
> but by an infinite sum of infinite histories. If you were correct,
> there would be no possible white rabbit. You are confusing comp (I am
> a machine) and constructive physics (the universe is a machine).
This is the COMP I have a problem with. It's the one in the literature.
It relates directly to the behaviour (descriptive options of) of scientists:



This is the shorthand for computationalism as distilled from the various
sources cited above. The working definition here:

/The operational/functional equivalence (identity, indistinguishability
at the level of the model) of (a) a sufficiently embodied,
computationally processed, sufficiently detailed symbolic/formal
description/model of a natural thing X and (b) the described natural
thing X//./

If this is not the COMP you speak of, then this could be the origins of
disparity in view. Also, the term "I am machine" says nothing
scientifically meaningful to me. The term "The universe is a machine"
also says nothing scientifically meaningful to me.

I offer the following distinction, which relates directly to the human
behaviour (observable, testable) called scientific behaviour.
(a) scientific descriptions of a natural world produced by an observer
inside it, built of it. (science currently 100% here)
(b) scientific descriptions (also produced inside it by (a) human
observers) of a natural world as a natural form of computation which
produces the above observer.(science currently Nil% here for no
justified reason)
(c) The natural world as an actual instantiation of (b)."Whatever it is
that we find ourselves in".

When you utter the word "physics" above, I hear a reference to
descriptions of type (a) and nothing else. I assume no direct
relationship between them and (b) or (c). The framework of (a), (b),(c)
is all that is needed, justified because it exhausts the list of
possible views of our situation which have any empirical/explanatory
relevance. None of the descriptions (a) or (b) need be unique or even
exact. The only thing required of (a) is prediction. The only thing
required of (b) is prediction /of an observer who is predicting/. Both
(a) and (b) are justified empirically in predicting a scientist.

Now consider the ways I could be confused:
(i) computed (Turing) (a) is identical to (c) (all of it)
(ii) computed (Turing) (b) is identical to (c) (all of it)
(iii) computed (Turing) (a) of a piece of (c) is identical to the piece
of (c) within (c)
(iv) computed (Turing) (b) of a piece of (c) is identical to the piece
of (c) within (c)

The COMP I refute above is of type (iii). I did not examine (iv) in the

(iii) is the delusion currently inhabiting computer science in respect
of AGI expectations. The 'piece of (c)' I use to do this is 'the human
scientist'. It is expectations of AGI projects that I seek to clarify -
my motivation here. It is a 100% practical need.

(i) and (ii) might be possible if you already knew everything....but
that is of no practical use.
(iii) and (iv) viability depends on the "piece of (c)/rest of (c)"
boundary and how well that boundary facilitates an AGI.

So... who's assuming stuff? :-)


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at
Received on Mon Aug 10 2009 - 17:08:38 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:16 PST