RE: FW: Everything Physical is Based on Consciousness

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 9 May 2005 21:00:24 -0000

>-----Original Message-----
>From: "Hal Finney" []
>Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 4:12 AM
>Subject: Re: FW: Everything Physical is Based on Consciousness
>>From: "Hal Finney" []
>>Another way to think of it is that all bit strings
>>exist, timelessly; and some of them implicitly specify computer programs;
>>and some of those computer programs would create universes with observers
>>just like us in them. You don't necessarily need the machinery of
>>the computer to run the program, it could be that the existence of the
>>program itself is sufficient for what we think of as reality.
>Brent Meeker replies:
>> In what sense does "the program" exist if not as physical tokens?
>> Is it enough that you've thought of the concept? The same "program",
>> i.e. bit-string, does different things on different computers. So how
>> can the program instantiate reality independent of the computer?
>Yes, I think it is enough that I have thought of the concept! Or more
>accurately, I think it is enough that the concept is thinkable-of.

Why bother with the computer at all. Since you're just conceptualizing the
computer (it is actually going to do anything) and all the computer would do
would be to produce some other bit-string, given the input bit-string; why not
just think of all possible bit-strings. Isn't that what Bruno's UDA does -
generate all possible bit strings.

But since they only have to be "thinkable-of", it seems all this talk about
bit-strings and computers is otiose. The universe is "thinkable-of", therefore
it exists.

>What I mean is, a bit string plus the concept of a computer is enough
>to imply a universe with a time coordinate (or more than one!) and all
>the complexity we perceive. In the Platonic sense both the bits and
>the computer-concept exist in the abstract, as both are informational
>entities. So in principle that should be enough.

Actually I think that is a mistake. Information is the (partial)
representation of one thing by another. A bit-string doesn't represent
anything absent something to "interpret" it. I put "interpret" in scare quotes
because I really mean "to act on it"; not just transform it into words or
pictures. I don't think information exists apart from things with goals and
intentions who act on the information. It's human concept.

>Now, as to the problem of which computer to use to interpret a given
>bit string, what I think you also need to do is to imagine all possible
>(abstract) computers as well as all possible bit strings. Then these
>produce all possible universes.
>So this exposes a weakness, which is that we seem to need a measure over
>all the computers, in order to compute a measure over the universes they
>compute. And if we look at this more closely, we see that I have glossed
>over another assumption, which is an implied measure over bit strings.
>Robin Hanson on another list challenged me on this point: we need to know
>which bit strings are more likely in order to deduce which universes are
>more likely.
>In the case of the bit strings, there is an obvious symmetric choice,
>which is that each bit has independent, equal probability of 1/2.
>This is not the only possibility, though, and we might get different
>probability assignments for our universes if we assume a different measure
>over bit strings. But this measure is certainly staring us in the face
>and has an obvious appeal.
>For computers, it is much harder to come up with a natural measure which
>will tell us that some computers are "more likely", have more measure,
>than others. My hope is that with further understanding and philosophical
>exploration of this issue, we will either come up with an obvious measure
>(as in the case of bit strings) or decide that it doesn't matter.
>The theory of algorithmic complexity shows that, from a sufficiently
>removed perspective,

How do you compute complexity? Are you saying there is some measure called
"complexity" whose value is a function of something about the universe?

>almost all computers compute essentially the
>same complexity for a universe. These wiggle words "almost all" and
>"essentially" do leave room for the fact that certain computers compute
>completely different complexities for a given universe. But that's
>only a small fraction of computers - at least, I'd like to say that,
>but that again seems to require a measure over computers.
>So I do think this is an area where some work is needed, but certainly
>this result from AIT gives hope for a solution. It cannot be a
>coincidence that almost all computers work almost the same on almost
>all universes. That comes really close to letting us say, the computer
>doesn't matter. Maybe future philosphers will give us better grounds for
>letting us be agnostic about the choice of computers. And maybe we will
>even find that the question of bit string measure is similarly irrelevant.

I don't see that computers are even relevant.

Brent Meeker
Received on Tue May 10 2005 - 00:51:54 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:10 PST