Re: Objective Meaning Must Exhibit Isomorphism

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Wed Mar 05 2008 - 00:13:53 MST

On 05/03/2008, Lee Corbin <> wrote:

> > In any case, having very short runs exponentially increases the
> > probability that an isomorphic system will occur somewhere by
> > accident.
> Yes. Was that the point? Sorry, I've forgotten what the point here
> was.

Yes, I was exploring the idea that a random system might still have
"objective meaning". It will of course be meaningless to any external
observer, but it might be meaningful to its own *internal* observers.
This doesn't apply to messages - they don't have internal observers -
but it does apply to certain classes of computations.

> I've generally said that among the swirling dust clouds and random
> particle motions of deep intergalactic space one could eventually
> find a set of atoms isomorphic in structure to my brain at this instant.
> That was sort of Hilary Putnam's point when he said that any rock
> emulates anything. But to me, it's pointless unless an emulation is
> driven causally in real time in order to effect a computation.

I don't see why you say that. A moment of consciousness implemented in
a dust cloud should be just as good as a moment of consciousness
implemented in your head. You might argue that the advantage of a head
is that it will continue producing subsequent moments of consciousness
while the dust cloud will not. However, that isn't so if anything can
be interpreted as a computation: the dust cloud will produce all of
your moments of consciousness in parallel; or if you object to that
sort of economy some other dust cloud vastly distant in time and space
will implement your next moment, and another one the moment after
that, and so on. This seems to me to be an inevitable consequence of
the multiple realisability criterion of functionalism. We can avoid it
if we say the brain contains special non-computable processes, but I
see no reason to do that.

> By the subject line, my claim was that any meaning found in a
> communication (or artifact) if in order to truly be objective,
> must exhibit isomorphism. Some message that has meaning
> which needs an exterior Rosetta stone or one-time pad to
> decipher does not have objective meaning. For, as you and
> others have said, then anything can mean anything, with the
> right key.

Yes, it is trivial or wrong (which term you use doesn't really matter)
to say that anything can mean anything with the right key - *except*
in the case of conscious computations, which bootstrap themselves into

Stathis Papaioannou

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