[extropy-chat] Fragmentation of computations

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Mon Mar 26 18:17:17 UTC 2007

On 3/26/07, Russell Wallace <russell.wallace at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 3/26/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> > Well, all that "interesting work" is itself highly speculative.
> Granted, but it's speculative physics, taken seriously by some of the best
> minds in the field. Your objections would appear to suggest ruling out a
> theory of _physics_ (as opposed to philosophy) by pure armchair thought -
> which not only suggests that future experimental verification of said theory
> might overturn those objections, but also suggests they should be discarded
> right now on grounds of category error.
> > I don't have much
> > belief yet in non-local models. When that kind of talk starts, what is to
> stop
> > us from concluding that rocks are conscious?  Or that some arbitrary
> patterns
> > of atoms in the solar system succeeding each other is not having
> experiences?
> *shrug* Nothing if you want to go that route, but that's a completely
> different kind of thing from Hash-Life Man.
> How do you test whether an entity is conscious? The most obvious method is
> to have a conversation with it.
> To have a conversation with Rock Man, you would have to build a "decoding
> device" that actually contains all the information in Rock Man's mind. It is
> then obvious to any reasonable person that Rock Man's consciousness resides
> in the "decoding device", not in the rock.
> By contrast, you can have a perfectly normal conversation with Hash-Life Man
> anytime you want, and he will truthfully report being fully conscious. Nor
> would you have doubted this in any way until some engineer remarked "oh, the
> computer actually uses database lookup of partial results instead of redoing
> the arithmetic wherever possible". Suppose _you_ (a future upload of you)
> were Hash-Life Man cheerfully having a conversation until the engineer came
> into the room and remarked about the database lookup design, and the person
> talking to you went "oh, ugh, you're half a zombie then!" how would you
> react? Would you conclude "well I _feel_ perfectly conscious, but I guess I
> must really be half unconscious no matter how I feel"?
> Do you still not see anything wrong with the intuition that led you down
> this track?

To amplify Russell's remarks somewhat, there's an assumption running
through this thread that there can be "information" without an
observer, thus the talk about "information flowing" during a "causal
process", but not in the case of a lookup table. There's an essential
subjective element that's being ignored here.  Just as any pattern of
bits may be validly said to "be random" or to "contain information",
it depends on the observer.  Without specifying the observer, the
statement is meaningless.

- Jef

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