Re: Human mind Turing computable according to Eliezer

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Wed Oct 06 2004 - 20:01:04 MDT

Mitchell Porter wrote:

> Eliezer, I've often asked myself what your new, non-mysterious
> theory of consciousness *is*. You tell us to embrace mundane
> reductionism, but that doesn't answer the question. Everything
> that is, is physical, you seem to say. So: does consciousness
> exist or not? If it does exist, what sort of physical entity
> is it, and how are the various subjective attributes of
> consciousness explained? If it does not exist, then in what
> terms am I to interpret the fact of my own existence, and my
> awareness of it?

"Consciousness" is that vague term we use to describe being aware of
being aware. Many dynamic systems can be said to be aware of their
environment, since they react and respond to it. Some of the more
complex systems, such as humans, can introspect, and are thus aware of
being aware. All of this appears to be explainable in reductionist
terms -- there is no need to posit an elan vital or any other mysterious

When you say "the fact of my existence" you are making the same
assumption as Descartes. You are assuming that there is a Self that is
somehow an independent observer. Yet the simplest explanation (meaning
the one that doesn't require anything mysterious) is that your sense of
self is exactly what would be reported by such a mechanistic system.
When you ask your self how you feel, you are using exactly those
mechanistic process to ask and to answer the question. All gaps,
distortions, delays, discontinuities, etc., in your processing are
handled by the system as determined by its structure, and at some point,
the system reports how it feels. You can't not feel like a Self,
because "you" are the result of that system.

But the system has evolved the capacity of abstract reasoning to the
level that it can conceive of such a structure without an independent
observer, without any mysterious Self, and can consider the mounting
evidence that the "direct of experience of Self" that so many take as a
given, is an illusion.

- Jef

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