[extropy-chat] Fragmentation of computations

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Wed Mar 21 09:57:48 UTC 2007

Computationalism implies that a stream of consciousness survives
fragmentation of the process generating the stream. If it did not, then
there would be some change in experience as a result of fragmentation. For
example, if an experience supervenes on past computational states as well as
on the present instantaneous state, then arbitrarily slicing up the
computation will change and perhaps completely disrupt the stream of
consciousness. Consider a time interval t1t2t3 in which a simulated subject
perceives a light stimulus (t1, t2, t3 are according to the clock within the
simulation). The light is shone into his eyes at t1, and he presses a button
at t3 to indicate that he has seen it. Now, suppose that the computation is
cut at t2, so that the interval t1t2 is run several real time days before
t2t3, or several days after, or not at all. Then since the experience during
t2t3 is dependent not only on the computational activity going on in that
interval, but also on what has gone on before, perhaps by excising t1t2 from
its normal position in relation to t2t3 the subject will not perceive the
stimulus, or not perceive it in time to press the button at t3. But that
would mean the same computation (and same physical activity in the computer
generating the computation) in t2t3 would in one case result in the subject
pressing the button and in the other case not, which is absurd if
computationalism is correct. Hence, the only reasonable way to look at it is
to say that consciousness supervenes on the instantaneous computational
state (or more simply, consciousness *is* the instantaneous computational
state), which makes it impossible to know from the inside whether your
computation has been fragmented.

Stathis Papaioannou
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