RE: Bruno's argument

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2006 18:40:03 +1000

Bruno Marchal writes:

> > I think I have more basic difficulties also, like the Maudlin
> > argument re the handling of counterfactuals for consciousness to
> > occur:
> It is a bit harder, no doubt. And, according to some personal basic
> everything philosophy, the Maudlin argument is important of not ....
> > is this requirement just to avoid saying that everything implements
> > every computation?
> Jacques Mallah makes that point some years ago (in this list), and I
> think Hal Finney has developed that point. I think their argument are
> valid. But then I don't think the Putnam-Mallah-Chalmers is really a
> problem once you get the idea that the physical world emerge from the
> mathematical world of computations. Personally I have never seen a
> convincing argument that everything implements every computations, just
> perhaps some tiny part of some computations.
> I will postpone saying more on the movie-graph/Olympia type of argument
> (if only to avoid to much simultaneous threads and to modulate the
> difficulties).

It seems to me trivially obvious that any sufficiently complex physical system implements any finite computation, just as any sufficiently large block of marble contains every marble statue of a given size. The difference between random noise (or a block of marble) on the one hand and a well-behaved computer (or the product of a sculptor's work) on the other is that the information is in the latter case presented in a way that can interact with the world containing the substrate of its implementation. But I think that this idea leads to almost the same conclusion that you reach: it really seems that if any computation can be mapped to any physical substrate, then that substrate is superfluous except in that tiny subset of cases involving well-behaved computers that can handle counterfactuals and thus interact with their environment, and we may as well say that every computation exists by virtue of its status as a platonic object. I say "almost" because I can't quite see how to prove it, even though I suspect that it is so.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Wed Jul 19 2006 - 04:41:04 PDT

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