Re: Functionalism and People as Programs

From: Stephen Paul King <>
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 2005 11:16:18 -0400

Dear Lee,

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee Corbin" <>
To: "EverythingList" <>
Sent: Friday, June 03, 2005 12:20 AM
Subject: Functionalism and People as Programs

> Stephen writes
>> I really do not want to be a stick-in-the-mud here, but what do we
>> base
>> the idea that "copies" could exist upon?
> It is a conjecture called "functionalism" (or one of its close variants).
> I guess the "strong AI" view is that the mind can be emulated on a
> computer. And yes, just because many people believe this---not
> surprisingly
> many computer scientists---does not make it true.


    I am aware of those ideas and they seem, at least to me, to be supported
by an article of Faith and not any kind of empirical evidence. Maybe that is
why I have such an allergy to the conjecture. ;-)

> An aspect of this belief is that a robot could act indistinguishably
> from humans. At first glance, this seems plausible enough; certainly
> many early 20th century SF writers thought it reasonable. Even Searle
> concedes that such a robot could at least appear intelligent and
> thoughtful to Chinese speakers.
> I suspect that Turing also believed it: after all, he proposed that
> a program one day behave indistinguishably from humans. And why not,
> exactly? After all, the robot undertakes actions, performs calculations,
> has internal states, and should be able to execute a repertoire as fine
> as that of any human. Unless there is some devastating reason to the
> contrary.


    What I seem to rest my skepticism upon is the fact that in all of these
considerations there remains, tacitly or not, the assumption that these
"internal states" have an entity "to whom" they have a particular valuation.
I see this expressed in the MWI, more precisely, in the "relative state" way
of thinking within an overall QM multiverse. Additionally, we are still
embroiled in debate over the sufficiency of a Turing Test to give us
reasonable certainty to claim that we can reduce 1st person aspects from 3rd
person, Searle's Chinese Room being one example.

>> What if "I", or any one else's 1st person aspect, can not be copied?
>> If the operation of copying is impossible, what is the status of all
>> of these thought experiments?
> I notice that many people seek refuge in the "no-copying" theorem of
> QM. Well, for them, I have that automobile travel also precludes
> survival. I can prove that to enter an automobile, drive it somewhere,
> and then exit the automobile invariably changes the quantum state of
> the person so reckless as to do it.


    Come on, Lee, your trying to evade the argument. ;-)

> [LC]
> If someone can teleport me back and forth from work to home, I'll
> be happy to go along even if 1 atom in every thousand cells of mine
> doesn't get copied. Moreover---I am not really picky about the exact
> bound state of each atom, just so long as it is able to perform the
> role approximately expected of it. (That is, go ahead and remove any
> carbon atom you like, and replace it by another carbon atom in a
> different state.)


    If you care to look into teleportation, as it has been researched so
far, it has been shown that the "original" - that system or state of a
system - that is teleported is not copied like some Xerox of an original

    Such can not be done because *all* of the information about the system
or state must be simultaneously measured and that act itself destroys the
original. If *all* of the information is not measured, then one is not
copying or teleporting, one is just measurering. This is not overly

>> If, and this is a HUGE if, there is some thing irreducibly quantum
>> mechanical to this "1st person aspect" then it follows from QM that
>> copying
>> is not allowed. Neither a quantum state nor a "qubit" can be copied
>> without
>> destroying the "original".
> This is being awfully picky about permissible transformations. I
> have even survived mild blows to the head, which have enormously
> changed my quantum state.


    Again, you are begging the point! The impact of air molecules change
one's quantum state! Perhaps we are stuck on this because we are assuming a
"still frame by still frame" kind of representation of the situation. The
quantum state of a system is continuously changing, that is why there is a
variable "t" in the Schroedinger eqation for a wavefunction! I am commenting
about the absurdity of copying the quantum mechanical system itself, or some
subset or trace of it, other that that implied by the rules of QM.

>> falsified, by the same experiments that unassailably imply that Nature
>> is,
>> at its core, Quantum Mechanical and not Classical and thus one wonders:
>> "Why
>> do we persist in this state of denial?"
> Probably for the same reason that some people continue to be Libertarians.
> It's a belief thing---the way you see the world.


    Sure, and I hope that even Liberals can admit to errors in their beliefs
when presented with evidence and reasonable arguments to the contrary of the
assumptions within their beliefs. It is when people engage in active denial
of matters of fact that persons like myself wonder about them. ;-)

Received on Fri Jun 03 2005 - 11:41:34 PDT

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