Re: Simulation argument in the NY Times

From: Matt Mahoney (
Date: Sun Aug 19 2007 - 12:11:39 MDT

--- "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <> wrote:

> Matt Mahoney wrote:
> >
> > Of course. I too believe that my brain is a computer. I also believe
> that I
> > am conscious. These two beliefs result in a contradiction, so I know that
> at
> > least one of them must be wrong.
> Both these beliefs are very strongly supported by the evidence,
> whereas your belief that they are mutually contradictory is widely
> disputed. You should consider that your belief that the two beliefs
> result in a contradiction is the source of your confusion.

By consciousness, I mean the sense of self, the thing that makes you different
from everyone else, the little person inside your head that observes the world
and makes decisions about what to do next. Consciousness is very hard to
define rigorously, but everyone knows what it is. It is what distinguishes
this universe from a hypothetical atom-for-atom identical universe that exists
beyond the awareness of any person, including your copy that lives your life,
following its neurally programmed instructions, deterministically making the
exact same sequence of decisions that you make.

In the common sense of the word, a consciousness violates the laws of physics.
 There is no test to distinguish whether a person has a consciousness or just
a belief in their consciousness. I gave this example of a contradiction:
Captain Kirk willingly steps into the transporter to have his atoms
disassembled because he knows an identical copy will be assembled on the
planet below. Would he be willing if he knew the original would not be

If by consciousness you mean the set of behaviors characterized by a belief in
consciousness (as I described it), then I accept there is no contradiction.

-- Matt Mahoney,

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