[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 25 07:38:34 UTC 2013

ordon <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:

>We could perhaps build a digital model of a neuron or an entire brain, but I think it would be only a model. The model in this case is not identical to the thing modeled, because the thing modeled (the mind/brain) is not in my view like a digital computer.

Well, a model of a piece of music (e.g. a digital recording) is not identical to the thing modeled either, but nobody cares.  The important thing, the music, is still there.

It wouldn't matter if the model was made via a direct recording, or a heap of filters separating out all the sine waves, followed be recombining them, or encoding the music as  amplitude-modulated signals, or whatever.  Even though none of those would be identical to the thing modeled, they would all be perfectly acceptable, and indistinguishable from the original, if done properly.

The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is whether or not you accept that a mind is a dynamic information-processing system.  If you do, then you must logically accept that anything capable of replicating that information-processing is capable of supporting a mind.  If not, you have to put forward a proposal for what a mind is.  It can only be composed of some combination of five things: matter, energy, space, time and information.  There literally is nothing else.  Neither biology nor technology has anything else to work with.  if biology can do something, then in principle so can technology.  If this is not true, then all of science is based on false premises.

>It is tempting to think the mind is to the brain what software is to hardware, per the computational model of mind, but I believe that model is misguided.There are no 1's and 0's floating around in our heads, or anything like them. Thoughts are not like programs running in our brains. Consciousness arises through some biological process that we do not yet understand, but it is I think biological and not digital.

Are there 1's and 0's floating around in a computer?

You seem to be putting the cart before the horse.
It's not that the process to be modeled has to be digital, it's that digital computing can model non-digital processes.  Think of the music example again.

Another issue is levels of abstraction.  Nobody is (I hope) expecting that an uploaded mind will /be a program/ running on a computer.  There will be programs running, yes, but they will bear about the same relationship to the mind as the rules that govern chemistry bear to the same mind running in a biological brain.  Thinking that because computers are digital means that anything they do has to 'be digital' is a red herring.

>In my view digital simulations are, in a sense, nothing more than sophisticated digital photographs. Just as a digital photograph of you is not conscious, neither would be a digital simulation of you.

A digital photograph is not supposed to be conscious, but it is supposed to form a visual resemblance. Which it does, to an arbitrary level of fidelity.  Just as a digital photo is a good visual resemblance, to the degree to which it captures visual information, so a digital simulation of a mind would be a good mind, to the degree to which it captured the relevant information.  Just because we don't yet know exactly what that information is, doesn't invalidate the principle.

>Of course, if we are already living in a digital simulation then we could in that case make conscious digital simulations of ourselves, but I reject that idea as fantasy. I do not believe the world is fundamentally digital.

Then I suggest you take John's course on analogue computing.

OK, I'm not being fair there.  The point is, it doesn't matter if the world is fundamentally digital or not.  Digital processing is tremendously useful regardless.  Can digital computers do calculations on real numbers?  Of course they can, to arbitrary levels of precision.  Your first argument above effectively denies this, and you're asserting that digital computers can only do integer arithmetic, and therefore can't model analogue electrical circuits, for example (and no, a simulation of an electrical circuit is not the same thing as an electical circuit, but it /does the same thing/, and that's the whole point).

Ben Zaiboc

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