[extropy-chat] cryonicist living life in reverse

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Mar 16 05:21:11 UTC 2007

Stathis, Eugen, and Jef kicked these ideas around quite a bit, and
I'm not prepared to say exactly with whom and how much I agree,
but I hope this adds and doesn't detract from the conversation.

Eugen had written

> > It doesn't matter, you still have to do the computation. Enumerating
> > all possible states requires an infinite computer. There is no evidence 
> > for any such thing. Even if you had such a thing, it is not obvious that
> > observers self select the states, magically picking slices out of sequence.

and Stathis says

> Yes, you have to do the computation, but who decides what counts as
> an implementation of a computation/ of a particular Turing machine?
> You could make it completely bizarre and counterintuitive,  for example
> saying that ones and zeroes are represented by particular birds flying to
> and from particular trees in a forest.

Well, I do feel a need to reassess my views on functionalism, but where
do we start, exactly?  I think that in our world we ought to recognize
that human thoughts are distinctly different and superior to the thoughts
of dogs and monkeys, and vastly superior to the "thoughts" of bacteria 
and amoebas.  Panthetic beliefs that mountains and rivers have souls
have not withstood modern criticism.  So we really should start from a
point that declares at the outset dust and rocks to be unfeeling and
completely inanimate things. 

Of course, we occasionally learn astounding information completely at
odds with our common sense; for example, we learned that stars were
really sun like our own, but very, very far away. However, only the most
speculative---and hence the most suspicious---theories suggest that
universal omniscience of some sort is going on in Platonic space, or
in dust clouds swirling between the galaxies, or in common rocks.

Yet for those of us who have mechanist sympathies, it's also pretty
clear that the human body is a sort of machine, albeit a biological one.
It seems overwhelmingly probable that the laws of physics and
chemistry, so far as we know them, apply without exception to 
animate matter as well as to inanimate matter.

Therefore, just as we must accept---contrary to solipsism---that others
are conscious, so must we accept the possibility of robotic intelligence.
Sure, many will demur. There is no *guarantee* after all, that a robot
behaving exactly the same as the rest of your neighbors really is capable
of having the same kinds of though processes and feelings as your
neighbors.  But then, there is no *guarantee* that people of an ethnic
group different from yours are conscious either, and we're right back
to solipsism.

The next move that many of us make is to speculate on what is 
common among ourselves, intelligent machines, and, to a smaller extent,
the higher animals.  A number of us have sought refuge in the 
concept of *computation*.  Following Turing, we suppose that our
brains accomplish calculations.

The latest refuge for me---i.e., where I seem to have been driven
by seeing no other way out---is to stipulate that computation must
be accompanied by causality:  nothing shall be deemed a calculation
(I use the words interchangably) which does not follow the usual
kind of causal flows that we are familiar with in our daily lives.

It is on this common sense basis that I reject notions of universal
dovetailers, or notions that dust floating in space, or worse---that
entirely arbitrarily made mappings---can in any way be rightly
regarded as underlying computation or experience.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list