[ExI] Digital Consciousness

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Sun May 5 16:34:15 UTC 2013

Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> sent COPIES of his writing to this list,
please remember  they are only copies:

> we cannot drive our cars over those simulated bridges.

I know, I'm the one who pointed that out.

> "Bridgeness" does not translate through the levels.

A brick bridge does not translate through levels but the abstract concept
of bridgeness translates beautifully. We also know for a fact that
arithmetic translates through the levels and the exact same thing is true
for all of mathematics, and literature, and music, and the digital genetic
code, and intelligent behavior.

> consciousness does not translate through the levels.

Thus I can only conclude that you believe consciousness is more like a
brick than a symphony. I don't.

> We might find it possible to create the appearance of consciousness on a
> digital computer,

Just like a calculator might find it possible to create the appearance that
2+2=4, but that is just a simulated answer using simulated arithmetic; if
you want a real answer you can't use a calculator you must work it out
yourself using real arithmetic, only then will you know how much 2+2 is.

 > but it will still only be simulated consciousness.

Tell me Gordon, when you read the Extropian list on your digital computer
are you reading a simulated message, or are you simulating the reading of a
message, or are you just reading a damn message?

 > Simulations are, after all, only simulations.

Yes I can't argue with that, simulations are simulations.

 > They are not the thing simulated, except in the special case of real
> things that are already digital, e.g., software and digital photographs.

All literature every written in any language is also digital, every single
word, so is arithmetic, so is music both in it's written form and on your
iPod, movies too . The genetic code that makes you the man you are today is
also digital.

> In those special cases, we don't call them simulations. We rightly call
> them copies.

Have I just been reading copies of your E-mail messages all this time?! If
so that may be why you have failed to convince me, please send me your
ORIGINAL E-mail message!

> I also understand the architecture of digital computers well enough to
> look at them and see that whatever makes this thing I call consciousness,
> it sure does not look like a digital computer can do it.

And what in hell would a thing that COULD produce consciousness look like?
We both know the answer to that and mind architecture be damned; I have
read enough copies of your messages to understand that you don't think
digital computers can be conscious for one reason and one reason only, they
are not soft and squishy. If you have a more profound reason than that you
have never mentioned it.

> I'm careful to almost always preface "computer" with adjective "digital"
> because I do believe the brain can be understood as a type of computer.
> Just not a digital one.

Back in 1995 Marvin Minsky was on this list, he invented the confocal
microscope and many consider him to be the father of AI; Isaac Asimov, a
man not noted for his modesty, said that in his entire life he only met 2
people more intelligent than he was, one was Carl Sagan and the other was
Marvin Minsky. Anyway, in 1995 Minsky expressed contempt for:

"people who happily assume that analog computers bring some mysterious sort
of infinite precision that cannot be simulated by a mere 64-bit computer
working with double precision floating point. I used to use analog
computers, [...]  If you were real careful, even at Room Temperature, you
could sometimes get close to 10-bit performance for brief periods."

> If you think consciousness follows necessarily from brain-like behavior
> then I suppose you must think some computers are already at least
> semi-conscious.

That would be a reasonable assumption if you thought that intelligence is a
much much richer problem than consciousness, and that is exactly what I
believe; I don't see how else you can explain the fact that half the people
on this list have some tin pot General Theory of Consciousness, but not one
has even a bad General Theory of Intelligence.

> Brains are not like digital computers.

I know, brains are squishy but digital computers are not.

> Brains are biological organs, not fundamentally different from livers or
> kidneys.

Yes, all those organs have one thing in common, squishiness.

> Some clever programmer will one day write a program that passes the
> Turing test. I might be fooled into thinking it is actually conscious.

This question should have been settled to everybody's satisfaction in 1859
and why people keep blabbing about it is a great mystery to me. It's a
fact, if the Turing Test doesn't work for consciousness because intelligent
behavior and consciousness are not related then Charles Darwin was dead
wrong. I do not think Charles Darwin was dead wrong.

> those parts of the brain that correlate to consciousness [...]

If there are parts of the brain that correlate to consciousness and nothing
else, if there really is something that Robert Ettinger called a
"consciousness circuit" then Charles Darwin was dead wrong. I do not think
Charles Darwin was dead wrong.

> Do you believe the world is *intrinsically* digital

If time and space are quantized then the world is 100% digital, there are
good reasons to think that they are but we don't know that for certain. But
we do know for certain that the things we care about the most ARE digital,
like literature and music and movies and our genetic inheritance. And even
you admitted that a digital computer might behave so intelligently that you
could be "fooled" into thinking it was conscious, so intelligent behavior
is digital too. And so unless Charles Darwin was dead wrong consciousness
is also digital. I do not think Charles Darwin was dead wrong.

  John K Clark
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