[ExI] Meaningless Symbols

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Tue Jan 12 01:24:42 UTC 2010

2010/1/12 Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>:

> Presumably the sim would map well onto the original aliens' 'real reality', though, which might baffle us initially, but would be a solvable problem, meaning that the sim would also in principle be solvable (unless you think we can never decipher Linear A).
> In a human-created sim, of course, we decide what represents what.  Having written the sim, we can understand it, and relate to the mind in there.

No, we can never even in principle decipher Linear A unless we have
some clue extraneous to the actual texts. We could map any meaning to
it we want. It need not even be consistent: there is no reason why the
creators of Linear B, hoping to befuddle future archaeologists, could
not have made the same symbol mean different things in different parts
of the text.

A text or code has no life of its own. It's of trivial interest that
multiple meanings could be attached to it: the important thing is to
work out the originally intended meaning. With computations, however,
the situation may be different. If it is an inputless program the
meaning ascribed to it by the original programmer has no magical
potency to affect it; any other meaning that could possibly be mapped
to it, including a meaning that changes from moment to moment, is just
as good. This means that any physical activity which could, under some
mapping, be seen as implementing a computation is implementing that
computation. Like interpreting a text according to an arbitrary
encoding this is a trivial observation in general, but it becomes
interesting when we consider computations that create their own
observers in virtual environments.

Stathis Papaioannou

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