Re: Emulation and Stuff

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2009 20:34:32 -0700

David Nyman wrote:
> 2009/8/14 Brent Meeker <>:
>> A good summary, David. However, there are some other possibilities.
>> Physics as now conceived is based on real and complex numbers. It can
>> only be approximated digitally. QM supposes true randomness, which
>> Turing machines can't produce. Again it may just be a matter of
>> "sufficient approximation", but the idea of a multiverse and
>> "everything-happens" assumes real numbers.
> But the possibility of 'mathematical ontology' would remain a
> possibility for physics, even if it turned out that we needed an
> alternative to the digital TM as the 'computational substrate'?

Yes, but some of the arguments like the MGA wouldn't work and the UD wouldn't work.

>> A sufficiently detailed, accurate and
>> predictive numerical model is as good as the stuff it models
> And in terms of stuffy ontology, it would be a successful model - but
> you wouldn't expect to be able to build a house out of emulated
> bricks.

No, I really mean "as good as". In other words if we can model every detail of stuffy
existence numerically, then we can suppose that we *are* the numerical model. We're not
the numerical model that we run, but we're the numerical model in God's computer.

>By contrast, in terms of numerical ontology, a sufficiently
> complete 'model' would actually *constitute* the stuff it emulated
> (i.e. indicating the quite different force of 'emulation' in this
> case). Yes?
>> But also a sufficiently accurate, detailed and predictive stuffy model is as good
>> as the consciousness it models.
> If we take 'sufficiently' to the limit I suppose I must agree. But as
> before, in terms of stuffy ontology, any digital emulation - if that's
> what we're still discussing - is a model, not the stuff modelled, and
> hence wouldn't meet any such criterion of sufficiency. If we accept
> for the sake of argument a stuffy TM as equivalent to a stuffy brain,
> then what we're asked to accept here is that - although emulated
> bricks are no good for stuffy house building - stuffy neurons are just
> great for stuffy brain building. But why isn't a stuffy TM running a
> computation just a stuffy TM running a computation: WYSIWYG isn't it?
> And if that is so, then a stuffy brain running a computation is
> likewise just a stuffy brain running a computation: equally WYSIWYG.
> The only way you invoke consciousness in either case is by the
> straight a priori assumption: stuffy computation => consciousness.
> But according to lazy Olympia, going about computation in such a
> stuffy way reduces this assumption to an absurdity.

Except the lazy Olympia and MGA arguments don't go thru for continua. Of course one could
still approximate a brain by artificial digital neurons, but the continuous nature of
their causal connections may be important.

> Of course, in terms of numerical ontology, the assumption that
> computation => consciousness is equally a priori, but at least it's
> not absurd. In this case, brains, TMs - and bricks - share a
> computational ontology, so we can get building.

Aren't you're just assuming consciousness cannot be what brains do. It seems that we
assume stuff(i.e. physics) computes it's own evolution. But if stuff=>computation and
computation=>consciousness it seems stuff=>consciousness.


> Reconsidering my recent statements in the light of this, I suspect I'm
> trying to eat my cake and have it (an old tendency) - but this might
> be OK. It still seems to me that the a priori ontological assumption
> of choice is some fundamental conjunction of self-access +
> self-relativisation: i.e.the One, I guess. Stuff and consciousness -
> which I suspect to be a spurious dichotomy - get collapsed into this.
> But given self-relativisation in the context of self-access, you can
> follow the math in either 'stuffy' or 'computational' directions till
> you get where you need to be, and like others I suspect this will play
> out according as we discover the relative derivation of persons <=>
> things. As before, perhaps this is a no-more-neutral-than-necessary
> monism, and I guess it leaves the question of emulation as model or
> reality to be settled empirically.
> David
>> Brent
>>> Now of course this stricture wouldn't necessarily apply to model 3).
>>> But the 'comp' that Colin claims to refute is, I suspect, not this but
>>> stuffy-comp - i.e. the comp based on stuff rather than numbers, that
>>> Olympia, in her lazy but decisive way, dismisses as ephemeral. This
>>> is also the comp that I have argued against, but I don't intend this
>>> merely to be a re-statement of my prejudices. I know that Colin isn't
>>> precisely a proponent of model 3) nor model 4), arguing strenuously
>>> for a distinctive alternative; so it would be interesting (certainly
>>> for me) if he'd care to characterise precisely how it diverges from or
>>> extends the foregoing stuffy-numerical dichotomy.
>>> Be that as it may, the punchline is: do we find this analysis of the
>>> distinction between numerical 3) and stuffy 4) to be cogent with
>>> *specific* respect to the significance and possible application of the
>>> concept of 'emulation' in each case?
>>> David
> >

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Received on Thu Aug 13 2009 - 20:34:32 PDT

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