Re: Mindless Thought Experiments

From: Krekoski Ross (
Date: Sun Mar 02 2008 - 14:11:49 MST

I dispute the can opener argument. You make the assumption that all of the
'signal' is contained inside the packaging, i.e. that all meaning of the
email is external to the email itself, and dependant upon cultural context.
But an extreme construal of that position implies that there is no objective
meaning, and that a completely random string of letters, or, non-trivially,
a string of 10,000 identical characters could, in some language express the
same thing. This is an extreme position, and most serious logicians, even on
the extreme externalist end of the spectrum would concede that a signal has
an internal logic. The position is somewhat akin to saying that if I create
a sequence such as:

-.-.--.---.-----.--------. etc
that an alien intelligence could not possibly interpret it as a fibonacci
sequence, since of course, all the meaning is contextually dependant.



On Sun, Mar 2, 2008 at 7:06 PM, Nick Tarleton <> wrote:

> On Sat, Mar 1, 2008 at 1:28 PM, John K Clark <>
> wrote:
> > That would be very odd indeed, but as we have no way of communicating
> > with such an alien or it to us there is little more that can be said
> > about
> > the matter.
> >
> > Somewhere in the universe there may be a language where this Email,
> > without changing a single character, expresses in perfect grammar the
> > instructions on how to operate a new type of can opener; but as neither
> > of us knows that language there is little danger of this conversation
> > being diverted into a discussion of can opener technology.
> The point, I think, is that it seems like there should be an objective
> fact of the matter as to whether some physical system is having
> conscious experiences; but if computation is sufficient for
> experience, since what a physical system is computing is subjective,
> this can't be the case.

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