[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Fri May 3 10:27:48 UTC 2013

Gordon <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> ... the absurdity of multiple realizability. As one philosopher observed, we could in principle train a massive group of pigeons to peck in a manner?analogous?to how the brain supposedly acts like a digital computer. We could say a peck = 1, and a non-peck = 0. Would that group of pigeons really be a mind?

The brain does not act like a digital computer, and I don't think anyone seriously claims that.  The idea is that a computer can act like a brain.  Completely different thing.

Forget digital vs non-digital, that's a red herring.  But in principle, yes, a pigeon-peck machine could implement a mind, just as an ion-current one can.

> Multiple-realizability is a sort of unspoken doctrine here on ExI with respect to matters of the mind, at least among many of us here. I have problems with it.
> http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/multiple-realizability/


That was the most long-winded expression of carbon chauvinism I've ever seen.

But I see now.  You think that 'multiple realisability' is absurd.  You don't accept the beer-cans-and-string mind.  You don't accept that minds exist within the bounds of physics.

The reason multiple-realisability of minds is an 'unspoken doctrine' is that it naturally follows from the principles on which the world works.  It's not a dogma that you first accept, then find rationalisations for, it's a conclusion that you reach once you understand enough about physics, chemistry and biology.  And yes, it might fly in the face of instinct, and feel wrong, but that's what science is like.  It cares nothing for our prejudices and preconceptions (unless you're talking about Bayesian stuff!), it simply works, whether you agree with it or not.

Everything we know about physics, chemistry and biology points to the conclusion that minds are made of information.  Not static information, but dynamic patterns of it.  Patterns of information can, just like music, be implemented in many different ways.  If you think that minds are not made of information, you need to explain what they are made of.  Science tells us they can't be made of anything else, so your explanation will fall outside of known science.  Either stand ready to receive your Nobel Prize (after revolutionising the whole of science), or accept that nobody who has a rational mind and the habit of using it, will take you serously.

Ben Zaiboc

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