[ExI] Does the computational theory of mind imply a "soul"?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Sun Apr 2 15:54:59 UTC 2023

On Sun, Apr 2, 2023, 11:19 AM Tara Maya via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> This is very interesting. May I quote you in my blog?

Certainly. Let me know if there is anything that looks like a typo, and
I'll provide a correction.

Note that this is the main thesis of an article I will be publishing in the
coming months at AlwaysAsking.com titled "What is conscious?" and this
feeds into a book I'm working on with a working title of "The Science of
the Soul": https://alwaysasking.com/book/


> Tara Maya
> On Apr 2, 2023, at 6:59 AM, Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> According to the computational theory of mind, the conscious state must be
> identified not with any particular physical manifestation (body), but
> rather, with some abstract informational/computational pattern. At
> first glance, this seems like a trivial distinction, but on a deeper
> inspection we see that it yields many properties which religions
> typically ascribe to souls:
>    - It has no definitive physical location, no associated mass or
>    energy. In a sense, it is *immaterial*.
>    - Moreover, none of the states of an abstract computation bear any
>    dependence on physical properties, so in this sense it might also be called
>    *non-physical*.
>    - It can survive the death of the body (just as a story can survive
>    the death of a book containing it), and be *resurrected* into new
>    bodies via a transfer of this "immaterial" pattern, e.g. mind uploading.
>    - By replicating the pattern of one's mind, we recover the
>    consciousness (the imagined teletransporters of science fiction exploit
>    this) but it also leads to an interesting consequence: we must also then
>    *reincarnate* into a new body, when for example the final state of a
>    dying brain becomes identical with the initial state of a developing brain.
>    The transfer and survival of the consciousness takes place for the same
>    reasons and in the same way it occurs in a "teletransporter".
>    - One's consciousness (or "soul"), not being tied to any physical
>    incarnation or material properties of this universe, can then also be
>    realized in wholly different universes having very different laws.
>    Specifically, it could be realized in any universe where it is possible to
>    build a Turing machine. In this sense, one's "soul" can *transmigrate*
>    to wholly *different realms*. For example, an alien civilization or
>    Jupiter brain in another universe that simulates our universe, could choose
>    to "copy & paste" a being it discovers in our universe into theirs. Would
>    this be a type of *afterlife*?
> Explaining the mechanics of the soul does not imply it no longer exists,
> it just provides us with a little better understanding of it and of
> ourselves. If denial of the soul is a reason you have rejected the
> computational theory of mind, you should know this theory might be the
> support science offers for the idea of the soul.
> Others have recognized the apparent connection between computationalism
> and ideas associated with souls:
> When the body dies, the ‘mechanism’ of the body, holding the spirit is
> gone and the spirit finds a new body sooner or later, perhaps immediately.
> -- Alan Turing in a letter to Christopher Morcam's mother (~1930)
> And if you were a pearl of material substance, some spectacularly special
> group of atoms in your brain, your mortality would depend on the physical
> forces holding them together (we might ask the physicists what the
> "half-life" of a self is). If you think of yourself as a center of
> narrative gravity, on the other hand, your existence depends on the
> persistence of that narrative (rather like the Thousand and One Arabian
> Nights, but all a single tale), which could theoretically survive
> indefinitely many switches of medium, be teleported as readily (in
> principle) as the evening news, and stored indefinitely as sheer
> information. If what you are is that organization of information that has
> structured your body's control system (or, to put it in its more usual
> provocative for, if what you are is the program that runs your brain's
> computer), then you could in principle survive the death of your body as
> intact as a program can survive the destruction of the computer on which it
> was created and first run.
> – Daniel Dennett in “Consciousness Explained” (1991)
> There is actually an astonishing similarity between the
> mind-as-computer-program idea and the medieval Christian idea of the
> “soul.” Both are fundamentally “immaterial”
> -- Frank Tipler in "The Physics of Immortality" (1994)
> Two main conclusions will be presented, both of which are remarkable and
> both
> of which, were it not for the force of evidence supporting them, might seem
> entirely beyond belief. The first is that a form of reincarnation is
> logically
> inescapable. There must be life after death. And there must, moreover, be a
> continuity of consciousness, so that no sooner have you died in this life
> than you
> begin again in some other.
> -- David Darling in "Zen Physics - The Science of Death, The Logic of
> Reincarnation" (1996)
> Do we find ourselves in a new body, or no body? It probably depends more
> on the details of our own consciousness than did the original physical
> life. Perhaps we are most likely to find ourselves reconstituted in the
> minds of superintelligent successors, or perhaps in dreamlike worlds (or AI
> programs) where psychological rather than physical rules dominate.
> -- Hans Moavec in "Simulation, Consciousness, Existence" 1998
> Recent cosmological data indicate that our universe is quite likely
> infinite and contains an infinite number of galaxies and planets. Moreover,
> there are many local stochastic processes, each one of which has a nonzero
> probability of resulting in the creation of a human brain in any particular
> possible state. Therefore, if the universe is indeed infinite then on our
> current best physical theories all possible human brain-states would, with
> probability one, be instantiated somewhere, independently of what we do.
> -- Nick Bostrom in "Quantity of experience
> <https://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/experience.pdf>" (2006)
> This led to the idea, much later popular among analytic philosophers of
> mind, that the mental is a set of functions that operate through the body.
> Such an approach supports the idea that there is a place for the self
> within nature, that a self — even one that exists over time in different
> bodies — need be not a supernatural phenomenon.
> -- Jonardon Ganeri in nytimes
> <https://archive.nytimes.com/opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/what-would-krishna-do-or-shiva-or-vishnu/>
> (2014)
> Jason
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