Re: Nature of Computation and Consciousness (was Objective Meaning Must Exhibit Isomorphism)

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Sat Mar 08 2008 - 06:19:36 MST

On 08/03/2008, Lee Corbin <> wrote:

> Anyway, I am a "time chauvinist", and believe that our best physics theories
> and our best epistemology are grounded in the notion of *time*.
> But others differ. Some don't see a central role for time, but
> believe it to be derivative. So then they're stuck patches of
> dust here and there in the cosmos being conscious (or at
> least "doing computations") and all that. To me, it's as wrong
> as having a child in Australia write "2+2 =" on a whiteboard
> and coincidentally having a child in Hungary writing a "4" on
> a different whiteboard. So what if an "answer" pops up
> somewhere in the universe? If there is no causal connection,
> no information flow, then it amount to nothing at all.

It amounts to nothing because no-one can recognise it as a
computation. The causal connection is necessary to make it useful, and
if it isn't useful then we may as well say it isn't a computation at
all. I completely agree with this. But if the computation in question
gives rise to consciousness, it *doesn't matter* that no-one
recognises it as a computation, since consciousness is not contingent
on an external observer. If we have a random system which, purely by
chance, will have hidden somewhere within it the lottery numbers, so
what? But if the random system has hidden within it processes
corresponding to a mind, why should that mind be any less conscious
for the fact that it is hidden from

> But I grant than many differ, and the question almost surely
> has no resolution that will be accepted by all---unless there
> is a huge physics breakthrough of some kind, I suppose.

The Monday/Tuesday example I gave before still works with classical
physics. There is nothing in your subjective experience which can give
you a clue as to whether the implementations of the two days were
causally linked or just accidentally correlated. This is a consequence
of the supervenience thesis in philosophy of mind: no change in mental
state without a change in physical state.

Stathis Papaioannou

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