Re: Nature of Computation and Consciousness

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Mar 08 2008 - 10:59:21 MST

Stathis writes

> [Lee wrote]
>> Anyway, I am a "time chauvinist", and believe that our best physics theories
>> and our best epistemology are grounded in the notion of *time*.
>> having a child in Australia write "2+2 =" on a whiteboard
>> and coincidentally having a child in Hungary writing a "4" on
>> a different whiteboard. So what if an "answer" pops up
>> somewhere in the universe? If there is no causal connection,
>> no information flow, then it amount to nothing at all.
> It amounts to nothing because no-one can recognise it as a computation.

Well, I assume (reading ahead) that whether or not someone recognizes it
is immaterial. Just to be sure, don't you believe that "computationalness"
like "consciousness" is independent of what outsiders observe or think about it?

> The causal connection is necessary to make it useful, and
> if it isn't useful then we may as well say it isn't a computation at
> all. I completely agree with this. But if the computation in question
> gives rise to consciousness, it *doesn't matter* that no-one
> recognises it as a computation, since consciousness is not contingent
> on an external observer.

I quite agree.

> If we have a random system which, purely by chance, will have
> hidden somewhere within it the lottery numbers, so what? But if
> the random system has hidden within it processes corresponding
> to a mind, why should that mind be any less conscious for the
> fact that it is hidden from?

Well, as I said earlier, first, I deny that anything truly random will
have anything at all of substance in it. To me, an almost random
system could indeed contain a conscious mind, so long as it was
not frozen in place, but was causally being computed from one
state to the next.


> The Monday/Tuesday example I gave before still works with classical
> physics. There is nothing in your subjective experience which can give
> you a clue as to whether the implementations of the two days were
> causally linked or just accidentally correlated. This is a consequence
> of the supervenience thesis in philosophy of mind: no change in mental
> state without a change in physical state.

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