Re: The GLUT and functionalism

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Sat Mar 15 2008 - 21:25:35 MDT

On 16/03/2008, Lee Corbin <> wrote:

> > Thank-you for following the thought experiment so closely so far.
> > However, I think I have made an error by writing "there will
> > definitely be a causal link" above. In the extreme case, the operator
> > might transfer every possible state in sequence, knowing but not
> > saying which of these is the right one to implement the computation.
> > Does that count as a causal link on the run in which this occurs? As
> > far as you can tell by observing him, the operator is no more
> > knowledgeable than an ignorant person trying out every possible state.
> > Could the computation possibly divine his mental state in order to
> > decide whether there is a causal link and thereby become conscious?
> Naturally, I don't see it as the computation getting access to his
> mental state, or anything like that. It's perhaps a bit like the operator
> supposedly transferring quantities of Argon by gas canister into
> a target receptacle but sometimes transfers Krypton either by
> accident or design. The delicate mass of the target will be affected
> without any access to his intentions, etc. (Sorry for the crude analogy, I
> hope it doesn't have problems, and I hope I am not belating the obvious.)

But the mass of the target will be affected in the same way whether or
not the operator transferring the gas canisters (which we can suppose
to be a means of transferring information) is aware of what he is
doing. An ignorant operator may happen upon the right Ar/Kr sequence
by chance, or by trying out every possible combination. If I have
understood you correctly that would mean no computation is
implemented. You have also said, I think, that if a knowledgeable
operator transfers the right information on some occasions then on
those occasions the computation is implemented; but how does the
computation know whether he is knowledgeable or ignorant if he keeps
it to himself?

> Maybe I've got the wrong picture of what you are describing?
> Does the following implement your TE in more slightly more
> concrete terms? The 6*7 = 42 computation is carried out in
> Australia by someone with a pocket calculator. The M2/M3
> is carried out by the calculator reaching all but the last step
> of the calculation, when the machine is destroyed but a nimble
> operator manages to record the semifinal state on a diskette and
> sends it to Vienna. A child in Vienna happens to receive this
> diskette, transfers the state to his own calculator, and finishes
> it, getting the answer 42. But on some cases the operator sends
> a faulty semifinal diskette, and then either by luck the answer 42
> is obtained, or else, say, 58 is obtained. You direct our attention
> to the case where by luck 42 is obtained anyway, despite the
> "noisy channel"?
> Either actual information flows, or it doesn't, i.e., the channel is
> noisy or it's not. The ignorant person trying out "every possible
> state" means what? I apologize for not being able to correctly
> visualize what you mean here---it's probably quite clear but I
> can't see it. Maybe the child in Vienna tries out a huge ensemble
> of diskettes one by one, and every so often one of them happens
> by sheer chance to be identical to the proper diskette produced
> in Australia?

Yes: under what circumstances do you think the computation is
implemented? For example, if the child in Vienna gets two diskettes,
knowing that one of them is the correct one, and tries them out both
does that mean the computation will definitely be implemented on one

> >> On the other hand, I doubt that there is
> >> any insoluble problem with mine---just a bit of awkwardness,
> >> e.g., why is a 3+1 dimensional creature conscious, a 2+1 dimensional
> >> creature conscious (as in Flatland or the Life Board), but a 3 dimensional
> >> frozen block that is *completely* isomorphic to the 2+1 structure
> >> not conscious?
> >
> > How can you be so sure about that last point?
> About assuming the complete isomorphism? What do you mean?
> You could easily have an ordinary 3D sculpture totally isomorphic
> to a 2D run through time. I used to suggest to people that they
> visualize a stack of very thin gels, each recording the state of a
> Life Board. Piled on top of each other, they depict with 100%
> fidelity a Life Board computation.

Yes, but how can you be sure that the pile of Life Boards doesn't
implement consciousness given that the corresponding time-varying Life
Board does?

> > If a rock emulates anything then blowing it up isn't going to make any
> > difference, since the point is that it doesn't matter what the rock's
> > atoms are doing.
> Touche. All right, then suppose I have a choice between (a) somehow
> magically removing from the universe---and causing to entirely cease to
> exist---a 400 kilogram of Stathis, or blowing your present biological
> incarnation to smithereens.

Well, this will no doubt make it seem even more absurd to you but
removing the rock from the universe won't make any difference either.
This is because if an amount of matter can map onto any computation,
then a smaller amount of matter can map onto the same computation in
multiple parallel processes. In the ultimate extrapolation of this
idea a simulation of the entire universe maps onto the null state.
This would mean that there is no separate physical reality, but what
we think of as physical reality is a simulation on the big Universal
Machine in Platonia. Thus, physical reality is put on the same
ontological basis as the natural numbers. No need for God, or for
asking why there is something rather than nothing.

> > On the other hand, if you blow up the physical Stathis, that would
> > mean that at least some branches of the computations in Platonia
> > simulating me come to an abrupt end.
> Well, I'm sure you don't weigh 400kg, so let's say that you weigh
> 100kg. In comparison to the biological 100kg Stathis, how much
> "computation of Stathis", if I may ask, does a 100kg marble
> statue of you emulate? Or, in other words, right now your 100kg
> because it's ordinary matter at about 295 degrees Kelvin, already
> emulates you to some degree. What degree?

There isn't a separate physical me. The physical me is a simulation,
and blowing up the physical me means the computations in Platonia
underpinning me come to an end; whereas blowing up a statue of me does
not affect the computations relating to my consciousness.

Stathis Papaioannou

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