[ExI] The digital nature of brains (was: digital simulations)

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Thu Feb 4 22:27:52 UTC 2010

On 5 February 2010 00:32, Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> --- On Wed, 2/3/10, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Can a conscious Texas-sized brain constructed out of
>>> giant neurons made of beer cans and toilet paper exist as a
>>> possible consequence of your brand of functionalism? Or
>>> not?
>> It would have to be much, much larger than Texas if it was
>> to be human equivalent and it probably wouldn't physically possible due
>> (among other problems) to loss of structural integrity over the
>> vast distances involved. However, theoretically, there is no
>> problem if such a system is Turing-complete and if the behaviour of
>> the brain is computable.
> Okay, I take that as a confirmation of your earlier assertion that brains made of beer cans and toilet paper can have consciousness provided those beer cans squirt the correct neurotransmitters between themselves at the correct times. This suggests to me that your ideology has a firmer grip on your thinking that does your sense of the absurd, and that no reductio ad absurdum argument will find traction with you.
> I find it ironic that you try to use reductio ad absurdum arguments with me given that you have apparently inoculated yourself against them. :-)

I take it that you are aware of the concept of "Turing equivalence"?
It implies that if a digital computer can have a mind, then any Turing
equivalent machine can also have a mind. If a beer can computer is
Turing equivalent then you don't gain anything philosophically by
pointing to it and saying that it's "absurd"; that's more like a
politician's subterfuge than a philosophical argument.

The absurdity I was referring to, on the other hand, is logical
contradiction. Spencer Campbell suggested that these may not be the
same thing but that is what I meant; see

The logical contradiction is the claim that, for example, artificial
brain components can be made which both do and do not behave exactly
the same as normal neurons. Not even God can make it so that both P
and ~P are true; however, God could easily make a beer can and toilet
paper computer or a Chinese Room. It is a difference in kind, not a
difference in degree.

Stathis Papaioannou

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