[ExI] Biochemical Chauvanism (was Re: Zombie glutamate)

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Mon Feb 23 05:47:31 UTC 2015

Quoting extropy-chat-request at lists.extropy.org:

Quoting John Clark:

> Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2015 22:05:30 -0500
> From: John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com>
> To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Subject: Re: [ExI] Zombie glutamate
> Message-ID:
> 	<CAJPayv33boeLqOdt9Ymycc+qzqqg8Tavpfuadsipd9dt4a3r5w at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

> The shape is all important in biology but if its function is translated
> into another medium such as electronics then the shape of the original
> molecule is utterly irrelevant and the only important thing is the bit of
> information it carries.

There are several problems with your top down approach to simulation:

First, to use your own analogy, you keep looking for the message in  
the bottle but there is none. The bottle itself is the message, and  
the recipient interprets the message however they will. Similarly the  
purpose of a molecule is not magically stamped onto it somewhere like  
some message to be read.

Now don't get me wrong, there are a whole lot of bits of information  
in every molecule but that is the literal intrinsic information of its  
existence. Like the quantum mechanical wavefunction that determines  
the molecules' location, shape, charge distribution, chemical  
concentration, etc. But there is no "bit of information" that it  
carries that maps to its function in an organism. Furthermore a given  
molecule often serves different purposes in different cells in the  
same organism. In other words that abstract functional information you  
want is entirely context dependent and is therefore a property of the  
system that the molecule is a part of and not of the molecule itself.  
The only information intrinsic to the molecule itself is its quantum  
mechanical shape and its location in space-time relative to other  

Form + Context -> Function

To use your bottle analogy, when Alice made the bottle, she used to as  
a container in which to give a tasty beverage to Bob. When Bob threw  
the bottle into the ocean he was using it as a floatation device to  
see which way the current was flowing. And when Carrol found the  
bottle on the beach, she put flowers in it and used it as a vase. The  
only sense in which the bottle is a "message" is if there was some  
sort of prearranged agreement between the three actors as to what the  
bottle "means". Yet it is entirely possible that a system  
spontaneously arises wherein Alice, Bob, and Carol repeatedly do  
exactly what I described to the benefit of all three, without any  
agreement at all. In that situation, what is the message of the  
bottle? What is its function?

> Oh no are we really going back to the Beckenstein bound, something that
> virtually no biologist thinks is of the slightest importance? Very well if
> you want to play that silly game, my iMac has a larger surface area
> than your brain brain therefore according to Beckenstein it contains more
> information than  more information than your brain. QED
> Yes it's a silly game but you're the one who wanted to play.

Oh come now, debate tricks like red herrings are beneath this  
discussion. I repeatedly stated that the Beckenstein bound is an  
*upper limit* to the amount of quantum mechanical information that a  
molecule, brain, or other system could possibly contain. Yes most  
biologists would not think it was important. So what? I am not most  
biologists. And yes by virtue of its larger size, it is theoretically  
possible within the laws of physics for your iMac to someday to  
contain more information than a human brain. Lets just hope we as a  
species survive long enough for that to happen.

>>> All schematics are, by necessity, simplifications of the real deal.
> Yes, a good simplification gets rid of pointless wheels within wheels and
> gets to the essentials.

Essentials? I thought you didn't believe in immaterial essences? By  
general relativity, epicycles are a perfectly valid description of the  
solar system because all reference frames are valid. The math is a lot  
more complicated when you make earth the center of the solar system  
instead of the sun but the math still works out perfectly fine. There  
are no essentials, just details you leave in or out of your model to,  
on one hand make it more accurate, or on the other hand, simplify it.  
Eliminating the wheels within wheels from your model of the solar  
system would simplify it. Eliminating the wheels within wheels from  
your grandfather clock would simply *break* it.

> No the schematics alone won't get me to work because a car is a noun, and
> brick a noun too so a can't build a house I can live in with the simulation
> of a brick, but when you're talking about information things are very
> different. My calculator does real arithmetic not simulated arithmetic and
> my iPod plays real music not simulated music. So the question you have to
> ask yourself is are you more like a symphony or more like a brick?

Your calculator and your iPod are both real. But your calculator  
merely computes patterns of light and dark on a display and your iPod  
merely outputs patterns of sound waves. The math and the music are  
both properties of you and not your devices or more precisely the  
system composed of you *and* your devices. And like epicycles, the  
answer to your question depends on your point of a view. To those that  
perceive me, I am more like a symphony. To those that don't, I am more  
like a brick.

> A simulated flame is certainly not identical to a real flame but to say it
> has absolutely no reality can lead to problems. Suppose you say that for a
> fire to be real it must have some immaterial essence of fire, a sort of
> "burning" soul, thus a simulated flame does not really burn because it just
> changes the pattern in a computer memory. The trouble is, using the same
> reasoning you could say     that a real fire doesn't really burn, it just
> oxidizes chemicals;  but really a flame can't even do that, it just obeys
> the laws of chemistry. If we continue with this we soon reach a point where
> nothing is real but the fundamental laws of physics, I don't think either
> of us want's to embrace that position.

Yes information is real, yes it causes shit to happen, but it only  
really *means* anything to an observer capable of decoding and  
processing it. There is no essence other than the details you choose  
to pay attention to and those that don't. Nature pays attention to  
everything all the time. You do not. Therefore essences only exists in  
your mind and not in nature. Your model of how information causes a  
system to behave therefore will be incomplete unless you simulate it  
from the bottom up. Once you do that, then you can try to simplify or  
re-engineer your system without breaking it. That way you can  
empirically determine a necessary and sufficient set of functional  
parts instead of dealing with sloppy simplifications that could leave  
out crucial components.

As far as your question of whether anything other than the fundamental  
laws of physics are real, have you read up on string theory lately?  
Supposedly the universe is a giant hologram whose true reality is  
bits/pixels of information moving around on the 2-D surface of the  
spherical event horizon of the visible universe projected into the 3-D  
space within. Do those pixels move around on the surface of the sphere  
faster than light? *WILD*

> I think a simulated flame is real at one level but care must be taken not
> to confuse levels. A simulated flame won't burn your computer but it will
> burn a simulated object. A real flame won't burn the laws of chemistry but
> it will burn your finger.

A simulated flame will only burn a simulated object if a programmer  
instructs it to or if the programmer simulates *everything*. If a  
programmer doesn't know or care about that aspect of the flame, he  
won't incorporate that function. A programmer cannot simulate what he  
doesn't understand so he can only try to simulate everything about a  
system that he understands. That may or may not be enough.

>> Would you as an upload even be aware that that component of your mind was
>> missing?
> If it's important to me I'd notice,  if it's not I don't care if it's
> missing.

If it was truly important, you would no longer exist to notice or care  
it was missing. If you doubt me, just ask Garrosh Hellscream about  
free agency. ;-)

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list