Re: QM not (yet, at least) needed to explain why we can't experience other minds

From: Stephen Paul King <>
Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 14:02:41 -0500

Dear Tim,

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tim May" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 10:48 AM
Subject: QM not (yet, at least) needed to explain why we can't experience
other minds

> On Monday, December 23, 2002, at 08:06 PM, Stephen Paul King wrote:
> >
> > Yes. I strongly suspect that "minds" are quantum mechanical. My
> > arguement is at this point very hand waving, but it seems to me that if
> > minds are purely classical when it would not be difficult for us to
> > imagine,
> > i.e. compute, what it is like to "be a bat" or any other classical
> > mind. I
> > see this as implied by the ideas involved in Turing Machines and other
> > "Universal" classical computational systems.
> > The no cloning theoren of QM seems to have the "right flavor" to
> > explain
> > how it is that we can not have first person experience of each other's
> > minds, whereas the UTM model seems to strongly imply that I should be
> > able
> > to know exactly what you are thinking. In the words of Sherlock
> > Holmes, this
> > is a "the dog did not bark" scenario.
> I just can't see any basis for invoking quantum mechanics and "no
> cloning" for why I am not you, or why I cannot plausibly experience
> being you, and vice versa, and so on.


    I did state that my argument is "hand waving"! But, you seem to have
missed this. ;-)

> Even if intelligence is purely classical (in terms of the physics),
> there are excellent reasons why there is no way today (given today's
> technology, today's interfaces, today's bandwidth) for me to "compute
> what it is to be a bat."


    Woah! Since when does Nature have to wait for Mankind to figure out
anything? YOur argument here is so grossly anthropocentric that I hope you
would re-think what you are saying here! I am not thinking in terms of
technical or engineering limits but instead I am trying to get at the "in
principle" notions of "what could Nature do?"
    If, as I wrote before, our minds are classical computational machines,
we should have no problems in "knowing what it is like to be" any entity
that had a mind that required less computational power than that available
to our brains. We might not be able to know "what it is like to be a bat"
but surely we could "know what it is like to be an ameoba"!

> Inasmuch as we cannot even build a machine which even remotely
> resembles a bat, or even an ant, the inability to
> simulate/understand/"be" a bat is not surprising. There is no mapping
> currently feasable between my internal states and a bat's. Even if we
> are made of relays or transistors.


    Again, what does current engineering limits have to do with "in
priciple" computational limits of Nature?

> Saying that our inability to know what it is to be another person
> implies that some principle of QM is likely to be involved is, in my
> view, unsupported and unrealistic.


    Please reconsider this statement given my argument above.

> It may well be that there are deep, QM-related reasons why Alice cannot
> emulate Bob, but we are probably a long way in _engineering_ terms from
> knowing that Alice can or cannot emulate Bob, or have a first person
> understanding of what a bat is, etc.


    What does "engineering" got to do with this discussion?

> Occam's Razor--don't multiply hypotheses needlessly.


    Key word: "needlessly"!!!

> In other news, I am enjoying Barrett's book on quantum mechanics and
> minds. (Interesting to compare his views with Bub, Peres, Isham, and
> Wheeler.) Got a copy of Joyce's "Causal Decision Theory," to go along
> with the QM papers Bruno and Wei have been citing. Also read an
> interesting science fiction novel with some new twists on the Many
> Worlds Interpretation (esp. the DeWitt variant): "Finity," by John
> Barnes. A New Zealand astronomer/mathematician with some interesting
> ideas about "abductive reasoning" finds himself slipping between
> different realities.


    I will see if I can get a copy of Joyce's book to read. It sounds
interesting. I like James P. Hogan's novel's involving MWI.

Kindest regards,

Received on Tue Dec 24 2002 - 14:05:42 PST

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