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A Kind Of Computer Capable Of Having Conciousness

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You do raise a very good point, though surely a random number generator is inherently non-deterministic and so this would effectively be a non-replacement. Were you then referring to superdeterminism?


I think the problem is that we define randomness in such a way that it's not clear that the concept is even coherent. We define randomness in terms of what it isn't -- predictable -- but that doesn't actually mean there's anything left over. In any case, though, I think that by assuming that invisible-god already knows the outcome, we avoid "non-determinism" at least in the way most people would like to believe it. Note also that the numbers in the book don't actually need to be random; they just need to be "good enough" that anyone other than invisible-god can't figure out what the pattern is.

Since we're bringing up non-determinism anyway I might as well register again how unimpressed I am with the "dichotomy" of determinism and "free will." I've said this here before and been met with fairly universal skepticism but I may as well try again:

It's intuitively "obvious" that if it's possible to predict exactly which actions I will take in which situations, then I don't really have "free will." That's fine, I guess, if we define "free" in such a way that doesn't allow for this kind of predictability, but what about "will"? Let's say we introduce non-determinism (if such a thing even exists) to give me back my "freedom." That means that, at least some subset of my actions are completely unpredictable.

That is, nothing about the observable world has any bearing whatsoever on what I end up doing in such cases. This includes both the makeup of my brain itself as well as everything my brain knows. Is this "free"? Sure. But how can it be "will"? I claim that, at very least, my will has to have intentionality; that is, it has to be "about" something. It has to be about my environment, or it has to be about me. My choices have to have at least some basis in reality for them to be "choices" at all. And non-determinism completely strips me of this.

After all, if my "choices" are non-deterministic, how are they different from your "choices"? My "will" is just as much your "will" or the "will" of the God of Randomness or whatever else you want to call it, because, by virtue of being devoid of any meaningful relationship to the visible world, my "choices" no longer have anything to do with me.

To bring this back on-topic, at least sort of, this is roughly why I'm so confused by the notion of "qualia zombies" or the possibly-even-less-coherent "consciousness zombies." We seemingly must reject qualia as purely epiphenomenal simply by virtue of the fact that we can refer to it. If my use of the word "qualia" is not completely incidental to, well, qualia itself, (and this is sort of an assumption, but I'm not sure it's worth considering the possibility that I experience qualia and then, by complete coincidence, I talk about "qualia" in a way that has nothing to do with the real phenomenon) then qualia must have an impact on my behavior. (this, by the way is roughly the argument that recompile made earlier)

Now, from this, there are only two possible conclusions: the first possibility is that a sufficiently well-created functional model of me will have qualia in the same way that I do, as it will use the word "qualia" in the same way that I do and be describing the same thing. Note that this case doesn't assume that "qualia" is a real thing for me or the model; it need only be that the model of me have the same experience that I do, whatever that may be.

The other possibility is that the model will never experience qualia in the same way that I do, and thus, it won't be able to talk about qualia. But then where does qualia manifest for the "real" me? How does it impact my behavior? It cannot be modeled algorithmically (or else we'd be in the former case) but then can it be predictable at all? If not, how is it anything other than random? And if the only difference between me and the functional model of me is that I talk about "qualia" due to some process that impacts my behavior randomly, then it seems like "qualia" isn't really what we want it to be after all.

The short version of this is the following: it's very common to hear people try to justify some "unique" aspect of the human mind, be it free will, consciousness, soul, or whatever, through the proposal of some non-deterministic/quantum/random process that manifests itself in human thought, and, ultimately, human behavior. To me this is even less interesting then the purely functional model, though, because randomness is just that: random. It's not for, because of, or about anything. At least in the fully deterministic model of the human mind I can say that I make my choices based on the information that's available to me and the functional structure of my mind.

End rant. Edited by cowsarenotevil

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I'm not trying to discount the usefulness of deterministic pseudo-randomness. My concern (if you can call it that) was that most quantum physicists believe that the Universe is non-deterministic at the heart of it all, and so the suggestion of replacing that with a random (non-deterministic) number generator (God's book of random numbers) is... a non-suggestion, since they're already the same thing. Perhaps I misinterpreted what you were saying, but this is why I asked about super-determinism: if we do not replace non-determinism with determinism (local hidden variables), but are adamant in replacing it with something, then super-determinism was the only viable alternative that I could think of.

As for randomness, I think that it's much more clear cut if you consider that if you keep stuffing bits into an entropy assessment machine that it will tell you with pretty good confidence that the string of input bits is random if the string is pretty long and the string pretty much maximizes the Shannon entropy to all orders (as best as possible, given that the string is going to be finite in real life). When you start getting non-maximal entropy at some order, and it doesn't ever get corrected, then you've got something deterministic (pseudo-random) going on deep in the works, like say, a finite period. When I talk about "to all orders", I'm talking about considering not just single bits, but pairs of adjacent bits, triplets, etc (unigrams, digrams, trigrams, etc). Perhaps there are other people here that can clarify a few details of the paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" better than I can, but randomness is definitely not an incoherent concept. I wrote a bit about this last winter here, but I had made the ridiculous mistake of breaking the string into uni/di/tri/etc-grams by sliding the window along using steps larger than one. That was a dumb mistake, and I already knew better at the time (but my memory is shit), so perhaps consider the posts that I usually put on here... they take like 50 edits to get right, and even then they're full of errors: now THAT is incoherent.

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of "quantum consciousness" per se, but I care so little about it that I'll just let you debate the consciousness and free will things with that philosopher person. I'm sticking to "spin, twin, fin" for now. Does the moon exist when you're not looking at it? What a bullshit question (when asked in that particular way that elevates animals to the level of Universe-warping supergods), as I'm sure you'll agree. Edited by taby

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I think you may be conflating determinism with local hidden variables: how about deterministic hidden variables that are not local? Let's assume the universe is discrete somehow, so that the output of our "non-deterministic" source can always be expressed as a stream of bits. Now let's imagine that, instead of random bits, we get the bits of, say, pi (obviously if the universe can't be expressed discretely we'd have to come up with a similar method of generating our continuous "non-deterministic" output but let's ignore that for simplicity).

If we could take every "non-deterministic" event that ever occurred, and represent them neatly "in order" (whatever that means; let's assume also that there's some kind of natural way of ordering such events), it'd be very "obvious" that we were dealing with something fully deterministic if the numbers happened to form the binary representation of pi. But from the standpoint of what we can observe, we can only actually read one out of every [very large number] bits, and we've already missed [very larger number] of the first bits and will likely never be able to figure them out.

And so I claim that even if the "non-deterministic" bits in the universe are actually just bits from some well-known number that has certain nice properties, we would not practically be able to distinguish this from true "non-determinism." Whether this claim is true or not, it certainly avoids Bell's theorem: pi would be a hidden variable, but it could not have locality as the impact of pi is not limited by the speed of light.

I am also not aware of any sort of tests, statistical or otherwise, that would allow bits of pi selected in the manner suggested in the previous paragraph (that is, the limited selection that we can observe, assuming that pi "governs" the entire universe) to be distinguished from "true" non-determinism. In any case, I think you'd have a very difficult time indeed arguing that the universe doesn't answer to any of infinitely many forms of (still fully deterministic) pseudo-randomness. Like I said, invisible-god's book doesn't have to be "random" in any meaningful sense, it merely has to be good enough to fool us into thinking it is such, and I claim this is actually a fairly easy feat given that we know very little about the macroscopic impact of quantum "non-determinism" and have measured a really very limited amount of it.

Now, I admit that I don't have a deep knowledge of information theory, but as far as I know there's simply no absolute test of "randomness." That is, there's no (finite length, finite running-time) program that can distinguish "random" bits from the bits of an arbitrary (but well-defined) irrational constant. Sure, simple tests that compare frequency of digits will be able to distinguish some constants from "randomness" (for instance, the string of all zeroes will not be mistaken for random), but again, I don't think this can be done in general. The test you're proposing would work on periodic numbers and numbers with non-uniform frequencies but, for instance, I think it would be fooled by pi or sqrt(2). You could of course check for such things explicitly in your program, but there are (countably) infinitely many such constants, and your program needs to be finite.

Even if I grant you that random numbers exist, as you mentioned, proving that the universe is driven by them is still impossible as long as we only have a finite set of data.

Obviously in this post I made a lot of claims that I did not prove and I'd love to see counterexamples to some of them, but I think my overall point still stands: we can't say for sure that the universe is governed by "non-determinism" as distinct from a sufficiently clever but still well-defined pseudo-random algorithm. Edited by cowsarenotevil

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Perhaps I'm missing the point. Isn't the alternative to *local* hidden variables super-determinism?

And yeah, you're right... there is no way to test a finite string to gain a perfect confidence in its randomness. "Pretty good confidence" is pretty good, but not perfect. Don't mention this to a quantum physicist though. I find that it has a really decent chance of unsettling their worldview because a lot of them have a difficult time understanding the difference between "capability of generating information" (non-repetitive states) and "information" (non-repetitive data gathered through measurement of an ensemble of systems in those states). I brought this up recently on a website somewhere, and I got confused but polite responses.

I have no idea why the random number generator would generate the binary point representation of pi specifically, but I see your point there. If the bits in pi are random, then of course that's a good of source as any (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailey%E2%80%93Borwein%E2%80%93Plouffe_formula). I just hope that you understand that the test that "I" propose is not my test. It's Shannon's test. He talks about an infinite number of infinite strings (so as to get a good idea of the different "seeds" of the generator), and my only simplification is the assumption that an infinite string would at some point contain all of the sequences found in the other infinite strings, so all "seeds" would eventually get tested anyway. Shannon's test effectively discerns between statistical coincidence and pattern.

I recently picked up an old book in Kindle edition called "Introduction to Information Theory" by John Pierce (inventor of transistor, I think). It was $4! Such a sweet deal.

P.S. I came off seeming kind of harsh and "anti-spiritual" in the last message re: "does the moon exist when you're not observing it". I am not anti-spiritual or anti-religious. I simply find it incredible when someone takes the "observer effect" from science and distorts it to mean that it has a special meaning when it comes to conscious observers. In reality, the entanglement and state collapse related to observation does not require that the photons come from/go into your eyes. It works just as well if the photons come from/go into the back of your head, or from/into a rock, the Sun, OR THE MOON ITSELF, etc. This realization is not anti-spiritual; it's just anti-bullshit. I've seen so-called "spiritual scientists" write passive-aggressive shit like "this is all a matter of opinion, and anyone who denies the possibility is a close-minded savage beast who bathes in the evil dogma". LOL, at the very least, they could try to cover this distortion of theirs by running with the First Nations-friendly idea that all matter is effectively conscious (or has a spirit, anyway), but they wouldn't ever do that because it doesn't elevate humans to any kind of special plane of existence, and that would effectively spoil the happymagic of their pathetic little circle jerk. Edited by taby

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... but do you trade Cats For Gold? If so, then I want information right meow!

(Sorry that was a test. Couldn't reply on that other thread about trading) Edited by taby

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SHRDLU: logical inference and languages
Creation: Life and how to make it : Central nervous system.

As for the rest... recode those two and I'll tell you the next step.

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[quote name='recompile' timestamp='1349988987' post='4989261']
Let's pick the low-hanging fruit. As mdwh rightly pointed out, you can't mistake the simulation of the thing for the thing itself. A simulated rainstorm won't get you wet, and Japan has nothing to fear from a simulated nuclear bomb. The standard counter: A simulated thought is still a thought.

A simulated rainstorm will wet things inside the rainstorm. I don't know why you'd need to point out that it won't we me. It's obvious that me and the rainstorm are in two different realities.

I personally subscribe to model-dependent reality: that there is no one true objective reality, there's only what you can measure and model. My mind creates a model of the world from the inputs it receives, and it's that model that I perceive as "the true reality". It's possible that my brainstem is connected to a computer and I'm in "the matrix" along with simulated rainstorms. In that hypothetical world, a simulated rainstorm would make me feel wet. But there's no way for me to measure such a hypothesis so it's neither true or false, it's irrelevant. Likewise my whole chemical structure could be some simulation and there'd be no way for me to measure that, so it's irrelevant. It's nonsense to talk about whether I'm truly a part of the one objective reality or not.
[/quote]

I agree with Hodgman. Recompile, despite repeating that this stuff is very simple, you manage to word your posts so that I cannot understand what you are saying. The above quoted post of yours I think I understand, but I disagree with it.
Are you saying that:
If a perfect simulation of the reality we have percieved and learned up until now is possible, that it won't be able to create something like consciousness eventually?
Or are you saying that a perfect simulation of the above is not possible?

What is wrong with the standard counter?

In general, I believe that even if other people have a consciousness like I know I have, I am not able to prove that they do, due to the subjective nature of a such.
What puts you in the position to determine whether Japan has anything to fear from a perfect simulation, or if my hair really gets wet? If you were already simulated, you shouldn't be able to
actually tell the difference, thus contributing to the assertion that the simulation is perfect.

EDIT: Wow, this thread is old. Didn't see the dates.

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