Re: The GLUT and functionalism

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Mar 15 2008 - 23:10:47 MDT

Stathis writes

(But first, you may wish to skip the history here, and go right
away down to the part where I humbly beg your forgiveness.
It would be a good idea, since I have been communicating most
miserably, and I only present the history for reference out of

> Lee wrote:
>> 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.

Yes, and this is where my crude chemical analogy falls to the ground.

> 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?

The computation doesn't know. What I am claiming is that there
exists an ontological fact concerning whether or not the computation
was conscious *at* that very step. (See more below.)

>> 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 [where a] a child in Vienna receives 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? 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 [out both],
> does that mean the computation will definitely be implemented on one
> run?

Oh, please, please forgive me. You're right. Damn, here we are
talking (my fault) about taking a particular *state* and moving
it somewhere. I agree---and always have---that it does not
matter where the state came from. I was confused. I mean,
I've always been a fan of Max More's "Luckiest Man in the
Universe Scenario" wherein an accidental combination of
20th century molecules comes together by sheer chance and
is a close duplicate (or an exact copy of a particular state)
of Francis Bacon. I was a fan, because it so well fit the ideas
I'd had ever since 1966. That "copy", if you will, really is Sir
Francis, just as if he'd stepped out of a teleporter booth.

What I *am* talking about is the causality *between* the states.
That is, to revert to your Monday/Tuesday experiment, which
implements Sa->Sb->Sc->...->Sj on Monday and some other
computer (if you will) implements Sm->Sn->...->Sz on Tuesday.
(Or last month, it doesn't really matter.)

Sj is not the same state as Sm, and I got to talking about
them as if they were the same state. Sorry.

I mean to say that the entire run (on some yet entirely different
computer) that goes Sa->Sb->Sc->...->Sm->Sn->...->Sz,
(where it is important to stipulate that Sm follows Sj causally
even though a few letters of the alphabet have been left out),
will or will not be exactly the same thing depending on how
the Sm state really arose. If it arose by chance---i.e. no
causal connection, no information flow from Sj---then there
is an iota of consciousness missing from any Monday/Tuesday
run that suffered this tiny causal interruption.

>> 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?

I'm not sure! I have not been sure since 1981. (Actually for a couple
of years after 1988 I thought that the problem was simply solved by
demanding "information flow". I still stick with that you see, but am
almost as troubled by all this as I was from 1981-1988.) I am forced
to my position by being unable to think of any alternative that I find

Take me to that sculpture (which is timeless), or that stack of Life
Board gels, and I simply recoil from the idea that the thing is
conscious (or was conscious at any point in time). Naturally,
destroying it doesn't matter, since it's timeless anyway.
It's a "done deal". But by the reductio that you read about in
my "The Problem of the Succession of Frozen States" essay,
the "stack of gels" that is saliently apparent to the universe,
if you will forgive a wild figure of speech, could be distributed
all over. Even in the sparse clouds of dust between the galactic

And---needless to say---we are right back to where we
were. Though, (for me at least) with yet additional clarity
and understanding, thanks to you.

>> 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.

Then why would it matter if your biological instance were removed?

> 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.

Yes, I know. Like Tegmark's Level Four. Like Greg Egan's "Theory
of Dust" which, by the way, I had to infer from an interview he gave
that he does by no means entirely endorse that view (or any particular
view he so cleverly and superbly explicates in his novels).

> No need for God, or for asking why there is something rather than nothing.

I have no need of those in my hypotheses. :-)

>> 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,

I do prefer "emulation" in this context since a very good actor
or a superhuman AI puppet master could just be pulling your
strings, and there isn't any real feeling and thinking Stathis at all,
but only some inhuman God-like creature having a bit of fun.
Or a skillful enough actor, I suppose, who somehow does an
incredibly good Stathis impersonation, while the real Stathis
was executed in December.

> 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.

I don't quite understand this point. Aren't you being emulated by rocks,
or maybe large rocks also? Aren't you being emulated by some of the
patches of dust between the galaxies? Since you're being emulated in
so many many places (assume for a moment our Level One universe
is infinite like Tegmark says), surely the demise of a little bit of matter
in Australia (whether it's removed altogether from the universe, or
raised to 451 degrees Fahrenheit) can't make a difference, can it?


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