[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Giulio Prisco giulio at gmail.com
Sun May 5 08:46:22 UTC 2013

On Sun, May 5, 2013 at 10:08 AM, Gordon <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Giulio Prisco <giulio at gmail.com> wrote;
>> I am using "computer" in the general sense of physical systems  that
>> evolve in time and interact with their environment according to
>> physical laws and stored programs.
> I understand that.
>> In this sense, yes, considering everything as a computer is a useful
>> framework.
> Do you believe the world is *intrinsically* digital, Giulio? By this I mean:
> do you believe the world is not only describable in digital terms, but also
> actually intrinsically digital in itself before we assign that digital
> description of it?

Well, as an unrepentant positivist, I prefer to avoid speculations on
what the world intrinsically IS. Science is not about unveiling
"ultimate reality," whatever that means, but about developing more and
more useful models of reality. Models are useful when they permit to
predict experimental results better than previous models, and build
better machines.

Not that I am not interested in speculations on ultimate reality. I
find metaphysics _extremely_ interesting and I spend a lot of time
thinking about it, but I also think science doesn't really need it.

So I prefer to reword the question as: do you think digital models of
the world may be more useful than non-digital models?

My answer is, let experiment decide. If a digital model of the world
permits to predict experimental results better than non-digital
models, and build better machines, then yes, the world "is" digital
for all practical purposes that we _need_ to be concerned with.

For example, sentient software on a digital computer (AI or human
upload, or a combination of both) would provide clear, experimental
proof that digital sentience can be computationally generated. Based
on my understanding of the models of reality that I find more useful,
I am confident that this proof may be achieved in this century.

I am using "digital model" and "digital computer" in a very wide
sense. I am open to the possibility that intelligence, consciousness
and subjective experience may turn out to depend critically on quantum
effects and the irreducible randomness of quantum reality. Whether a
qubit is a digital bit or not is a matter of interpretation, but in
practice, if we will find out that mind is quantum, then we will be
able to replicate it on quantum computers.

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