Computationalism vs. Comp

From: Lee Corbin <>
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 23:26:52 -0700

Bruno writes

> wrote:
> > I find an assumption of COMP far more tenuous than an assumption of a natural world
> I respect this.

I think that there has been a good deal of confusion between

(I) computationalism: the doctrine that robots running classical
     programs can be conscious

(II) Bruno's theories which build on this long-standing belief
     (computationalism) and which go much further.

This confusion has not been helped at all by Bruno continuing to
use the term "comp" indiscriminately for both computationalism
(which is also basically "functionalism") and his valiant attempts
to derive his "comp" from computationalism (involving use of Gödel's
Theorem, etc.)

It must be added that I have *never* --- since 1965 when I argued
for (what I didn't know was called) computationalism against others
in my high school.

It must also be stressed that Turing's most famous essay embraced
what is today called *computationalism* and which---basically---
was called functionalism in the 1980's and 1990's.

The YD (Bruno's rather picturesque way of describing uploading)
has also been argued about---especially by cryonicists---for over
twenty-five years. When I first became a acquainted with it, we
all called it "downloading": the notion that one's consciousness
could be downloaded into a piece of silicon, with all the advantages
of speed, durability, and backup capabilities that this entails.

In 1989 or so the people that I hang out with began to call this
"uploading" instead. You'll have no trouble with Google finding
all the thousands of emails and papers written about uploading.
The name was changed when it was realized that "downloading" oneself
into a small or large silicon device had many disadvantages over
"uploading" one's self into distributed, possibly Solar System wide,
communications nets.

TO BE SURE: the main point of contention among people is still whether
functionalism is true. Is it true, in other words, that "if it sounds
like a duck, walks like a duck, and acts in every way like a duck, then
it's a duck!"? We who say *yes* to computationalism and functionalism
are not in the same camp, as Stephen Paul King points out, as a number
of notable theorists like Roger Penrose, who believe in their bones
that there has to be a connection between quantum mechanics and

On the contrary, people who dismiss functionalism (computationalism)
will hopefully realize their mistake before long if (when) robots
attain the same behavioral capabilities that humans have. On the other
hand, if this proves to be truly impossible without quantum computation,
then we computationalists will have to admit that we were wrong.

Received on Wed Aug 31 2005 - 02:25:29 PDT

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