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About richardbaxter

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  1. Thanks Andi it is really interesting to hear your perspective.
  2. Nice Andi - very practical :). What we want to know is that final change to the reconstructed physical system (e.g. x neural connections) where you no longer experience reality and someone else does. Because if there is such a change it implies something determines when a new instantiation of sentience is assigned, and if there isn't - that we live in a pantheistic world. With respect to finding out how the brain works, I agree that this is an extremely worthwhile enterprise for a number of reasons (in fact so important that a significant proportion of all research should be directed towards the human connectome). But assuming we found out how it works, and it behaved according to the known laws of physics (or any others discovered within the existing paradigm), mental properties could confer no advantage on the physical system. Nor could we ever know for certain which systems exhibited them. So it begs the question, what are they there for; and why would they be restricted to such complex information processing systems? Perhaps they are an inherent property of all matter/energy and consciousness exists in gradations, etc. Furthermore (although this is getting increasingly off topic), I hope you appreciate that we have just defined a method to resurrect a body, which moreover according to the materialist framework will be the same person. It is fortunate the laws of nature are so fine tuned as to necessitate an infinite multiverse. Because with an infinite multiverse there are going to be an infinite number of exact copies of our bodies anyway. So let's put all the sola materialist assumptions in the box and see what we get; resurrection of the body, reincarnation, and life after death. Wait, what? Is there an error somewhere? Was it perhaps the assumption that design optimisation can't involve evolution based on a simple algorithm and unlimited computational resources? (Cf planet earth from the hitch hikers guide to the galaxy). Maybe it was realism itself and we are living in a simulation? (Cf discreetness/quantisation of nature + indeterminism). Such would concord with the assumption that we are reasonable creatures; but it doesn't explain the source. I do think it therefore worth promoting open mindfulness. For the sake of science it is profitable to assume that all reality will ultimately be accessible to it - but should we be projecting this ideal as a philosophy?
  3. Try to imagine variations on this scenario (from Zuboff's "one self: the logic of experience"); - what if I added an additional 795739528073 atoms to its neocortex? - what if I created two identical copies of the reconstruction?
  4. What if you died and they reconstructed you? Would it still be you or would it be someone else?
  5. Hi Andi - but what if I were you and you were me? What part of reality would differ to accomodate for this fact?
  6. Cheers Richard - thanks for all the references.
  7. In order to analyse a phenomenon one has to not make any implicit assumptions regarding it. For example a) reductive physicalism (which few adhere to as although mental properties may be mapped to physical properties they are not reducible to physical properties given how information is distributed across neural networks), or b) "emergence by necessity" (the assumption that mental properties just appear given a sufficient level of physical complexity - like when a machine declares itself to be conscious - without explanation). "Ghost in the machine" could be interpreted to mean anything from substance dualism to property dualism to simulation theory so I can't recommend the phrase here. Max Tegmark (an "informationism" architect) does however recommend the book/film when discussing simulation theory in the context of numerical simulation of physical systems and VR. In terms of property dualism, I figure it is more probable than a ghost without a machine, a machine without a ghost, or a machine with 73 ghosts.
  8. Physical properties are uniquely assigned because they are part of a bigger indivisible system. Are we suggesting that mental properties are also? The problem is that to suggest some substances don't have mental properties but others do is to introduce differentiation - and there must be a reason for this differentiation. To interpret "you" or "me" as a physical entity in this context is to assert an unnecessary reduction which avoids the question. Perhaps I could be you (rather than me) if indivisible centres of awareness are randomly assigned to physical entities. But we must then ask what determines the mapping? Does the universe itself (nature) generate a set of discrete instantiations of sentience? Then why would a new one be created? Why not use the same one? (This is Arnold Zuboff's argument). Is the fact we don't have any memory of alternate references of experience (like we don't have memories of our infancy) a sufficient argument?
  9. Why am I me and not you? Why is my experience of existence mapped to physical entity x and not mapped to physical entity y?
  10. I think this is a fair point. At any day we might get wiped out by an advanced prokaryote (or retrovirus) and the process might start all over again. Assuming the more intelligent species doesn't get wiped out by an asteroid or nuke their planet.
  11. For the weaker form of the definition, it has been suggested that the word 'threatens' be replaced with 'prevents'. Ie; Any entity (be it not for national security) that prevents freedom of speech is a terrorist organisation.
  12. Another way to look at the problem is in terms of utilitarianism/deontology. Should we kill (or let be killed) a human being to save a more intelligent more sentient machine, or 500 puppy dogs? If not, why not?
  13. Is human life worth more than animal life? If so, why would human life be worth equal to a more intelligent, more sentient machine?
  14. Because mental properties have no functional impact on the system. If one considers natural law (physics) to be a complete description of the behaviour of the universe (a prerequisite of naturalism), then only physical properties can affect the evolution of the system (eg neuronal/ionic information processing, genetic code, etc): non-physical properties by definition cannot. The point is that we don't know. The fact we don't know something means that we must consider all the possibilities. And if it so happens that a i) complex organism or ii) computer simulation of a complex organism can produce emergent mental properties (although we will arguably never be able to demonstrate this under the current scientific paradigm; see transcendence quote), then we must ask why. Does it just happen magically because it was designed that way (teleology), or is there some fundamental reason for the emergence (eg b, c). There is nothing wrong with making arbitrary philosophical assumptions in science - people do it all the time (eg methodological naturalism, non-reductive physicalism, etc). It would be very difficult for science to progress without these. But it is not the job of philosophy to make arbitrary assumptions and then make no effort to ask why these are being made. The reason there is so much variation in historical/intercontinental philosophical thought is because people are not ideological in their beliefs and are willing to question the reason for their assumptions. Perhaps there are reasons for making such assumptions however? The problem is that a blind adherence to inherited western materialism is not a very good one - because it emerged from teleological thought. I gather that we are trying to produce systems of thought that are not dependent on teleology. Cheers - Richard
  15. Hi Andi - I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. The problem of not knowing 'how it works' is equivalent to raising explanations for why it appears to work the way it does under the assumption of naturalistic mind (at least a-c). The issue however with equating strong emergent phenomena (mental properties) with weak emergent phenomena (like wings, crystals, neurons) is that weak emergent phenomena are reducible to the physical construct. Only with a platonic outlook does one even believe that wings exist, as something more than ("over and above") the underlying physical system. With enough computational resources one could simulate the emergence of wings from the laws of physics and some initial conditions. Yet regardless of their platonic/nominalistic outlook, there is a qualitative difference between a network of neurons firing and one's sensation of lavender. Even with enough computational resources, one will not necessarily be able to simulate the emergence of the sensation of lavender from the laws of physics and some initial conditions (it depends on the preconditions of such emergence). This is why philosophers don't take for granted that the 'how it works' explanation will belong to the same category of explanations (weak emergence) that derive atoms from subatomic particles, molecules from atoms, life from molecules, complex life from living cells, computers from complex life, and self-referential computers from their less intelligent or adaptive predecessors. Weak emergent systems may be supervenient on their substrate but this does not imply that every supervenient system (like naturalistic mind) is weakly emergent. The question of whether the emergent property of wings exist, or the emergent property of a self-referential computer exists is relevant to evolution, but the question of whether the machine (organism) is self-aware is not. I agree that if we could find out what were possible within the constraints of nature we could know what were inevitable - but the problem is that we do not know what is possible. We don't know the preconditions; as you point out we can only guess at them at this stage. Furthermore, discovering (guessing) that a phenomenon is inevitable given its environment is not an explanation (pertaining to internal consciousness, this is an example of the misapplication of the anthropic principle). One must still explain (eg provide some naturalistic explanation for) for why the neuronal-mental correspondence/mappings exist (hence a-d). What are the prerequisites for sentient beings - perhaps there are 5 identical sentient beings for every CNS, perhaps there are zero sentient beings for every CNS, perhaps there is one? What in nature specifies the rules, because the current laws of nature (physics) make no reference to such phenomena. Cheers - Richard