Re: Subjective counterfactuals

John Clark (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 15:21:31 -0400

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Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> on Sunday, April 04, 1999 wrote about lots of good thought experiments:

> Has the causal connection been broken or not?

I think some (not all) of your questions can be answered by having a definition of causality that is consistent with our everyday use of the term and yet produces few philosophical problems:

If event A causes event B that means two things and two things only:

  1. If you find event A you are certain to find event B further along a sequence of events.
  2. If you find event B you may or may not find event A in the opposite direction.

This asymmetry is useful, humans call one direction along the sequence of events "The Future" and the other direction "The Past". I don't know why the sequence is organized the way it is, I don't know why only one sequence seems to be real and thus only 2 directions exist in time. I'm not even sure it's true and there are only 2 directions in time.

Sometimes people feel there is a third property causality must have, namely a story that connects A to B, however as this invariably brings in other causal connections it obviously has no place in a fundamental definition.

I think most of the Turing machines you mention in your post would be conscious despite the unconventional way they operate; it's not difficult to extrapolate some bizarre and perhaps even disturbing conclusions from there, but so be it. Anyway, that's the way this Turing machine sees it.

John K Clark

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