One of the nice things about doing Conscious Entities is that from time to time people send me links to interesting things; new papers, lectures, or ideas of their own. I regret that I have generally kept this stuff to myself in the past, although it often deserves a mention, so I’ve been thinking about how best to deal with it. I would welcome suggestions, but as an experiment I’ve decided to try occasional round-up posts: so here goes.
M.E. Tson has a Brief Explanation of Consciousness.
Mark Muhlestein has a thought experiment Consciousness and 2D Computation: a Curious Conundrum, and has been corresponding with David Chalmers. My own view is as follows.
I think causal relations are the crux of the matter. A computation essentially consists of a series of states of a Turing machine, doesn’t it? Normally each state is caused by the preceding state. Is that an essential feature? I think in the final analysis we’d say no, because the existence of a computation is really a matter of interpretation on the part of the observer. If the different states in the sequence are just written down on sheets of paper, we’d probably still be willing to call it a computation, or at least, we would in one sense. There’s another sense in which I personally wouldn’t: if we read ‘computation’ as meaning an actual run of a given algorithm, or an instantiation of the computation, I think the causal relationships have to be in place.
Now this would be even truer in the case of mental operations leading to consciousness. The causal relations in a Turing machine are to some degree artificial: the fact that we can program them in is really the point. In the human brain, by contrast, the causal relations are direct and arise from the physical constitution of the brain. To exhibit the relevant series of states (even if we assume consciousness in the brain is a matter of discrete states, which actually seems rather unlikely)would not be enough – they have to have caused each other directly in the right way for this to be an actual ‘run’ of the consciousness faculty.
It follows that your projected lights don’t give rise to a consciousness, or perhaps even to a computation. Does this mean I think zombies of some kind are possible? No, because the interesting kind of zombie is physically identical with a real person, and the projected lights are significantly different from the occurrence of the actual run of the computation. Real zombies remain impossible, and all we’re left with is a kind of puppet.
Readers of my post earlier this year about Sam Coleman’s views may be interested to see the nice comments he has provided.
You can send me links to interesting stuff at: