Re: Computability of consciousness

Wei Dai (
Thu, 1 Apr 1999 17:13:03 -0800

On Thu, Apr 01, 1999 at 10:08:57PM +0000, Nick Bostrom wrote:
> I think this is the idea behind David Chalmer's recent definition of
> what it means for something to be an implementation of a program (or
> computation). The causal structure of the implementation has to match
> the structure of the program. I don't have his book handy at the
> moment however.

Are you refering to _The Conscious Mind : In Search of a Fundamental Theory_? I haven't read the book yet but would like to know if it is the one I should get. How does he define "causal structure"?

> Another example we may consider: Suppose we have a computer running
> an upload for 10 seconds. Suppose we computer has discrete time. Then
> we could in principle construct one computer (or one RAM chip) for
> each time step of the simulation; and we could load each of these RAM
> with the data that the RAM in the original computer had at the
> corresponding time. We can place all these RAM chips in one long row.
> In some sense, we then have what looks like the same structure
> instanciated in two places in spacetime -- once as a spatiotemporal
> process, and once as a spatial pattern. We presumably want to say
> that only the former gives rise to a consciousness. And the relevant
> difference seems to be that in the case of the process, the various
> states are causally connected, whereas with the spatial pattern that
> is not so.

I don't think we can really be sure that the latter doesn't give rise to consciousness. I actually believe that even one RAM chip in isolation (ie not necessarily in a spatial pattern with the other RAM chips) can give rise to a conscious experience, that the internal spatial pattern of the bits in the RAM chip is sufficient.