RE: Functionalism and People as Programs

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 2005 15:39:13 -0000

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Stephen Paul King []
>Sent: Friday, June 03, 2005 3:16 PM
>Subject: Re: Functionalism and People as Programs
>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. ;-)

I think there is considerable evidence to support the view that human level
intelligence could be achieved by a (non-quantum) computer and that human
intelligence and consciousness are dependent on brain processes; e.g. see the
many studies of brain damaged patients. Also, I think it is well established
that consciousness corresponds to only a small part of the information
processing in the brain. That's something that bother's mean about the
discussion of "observer moments" with the implication that only the conscious
"observation" matters.

>> 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.

Interestingly, Turing's actual proposal was to test whether a computer do as
well posing as a woman as could a man.

>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 agree that for copying to be successful requires that what is copied is
something classical. Tegmark makes more than an argument that brain processes
are classical, he makes a calculation, quant-ph/9907009. So I don't think
that's an in-principle barrier to copying. However, there might be other
limits based on thermal noise etc that forbid copying finer than some crude

>> 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.

Libertarians are poles apart from Liberals on most questions of public policy -
so I'm not sure who you're intending to disparage by "even".

>I is when people engage in active denial
>of matters of fact that persons like myself wonder about them. ;-)

I don't see that any matters of fact have been denied. Certainly some
non-facts have been speculated.

Brent Meeker
Received on Fri Jun 03 2005 - 19:32:11 PDT

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