John K Clark (
Wed, 1 Jul 1998 22:00:17 -0700 (PDT)

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- On Tue, 30 Jun 1998 Wrote:

>>Making predictions and manipulating the world is the most we can
>>hope for, nobody has seen deep reality.


>Your first statement goes well beyond making predictions and
>manipulating the world.
Good point, I should have said, I predict we will never find a deeper reality.
>I'm a bit suspicious of comparisons of the brain to the computer,
>by the way. They're well and good up to a point of course. But
>every era has seen its own favorite form of comparison, from a
>mechanical comparison (in the 18th and 19th centuries) to a
>"switchboard" comparison (early 20th century)

Considering the era, clockwork and switchboards were actually pretty good ways to describe the way the brain worked, before the existence of computers they were the best ideas that could have been hoped for, certainly a hell of a lot better than spirits, demons or souls. Today we can do even better.

>and now a computer comparison, and all have in one way or another
>taken the analogy too far.

I don't think the analogy has been carried far enough. Most seen to think the universe is be divided into two parts, the human brain and everything else, with the brain operating under different physical laws from the rest of the cosmos, laws that will never be understood. I see no evidence that is true.

>Our brains are different from computers not merely in terms of the
>quantity of connections but in organization and quality.

I think the difference is that present computers are much simpler than brains, but computers are getting more complex every day and brains are not

>They don't react to stimuli in the same way a computer does, because
>stimuli to a computer does not produce any mental content whereas in
>the brain it sometimes does.

You keep making statements about the subjective mental states of cells and computers and lightning and other people, but that's a dead end, I know nothing about such things and never will, all that I can observe is that I am conscious, everything else is conjecture. Intelligent behavior on the other hand I can study and observe in other things.


>>Give me an example, I don't care how wild or exotic, of a way to
>>prove that there is something more fundamental than information.

>Well... we'd proceed from an explanation showing information to
>really be a set of facts about something


>to an explanation showing that facts refer to aspects of the world

Same thing said differently.

>to a conclusion that aspects of the world "cause" the existence of
>facts and information,

In other words, if I find a certain event (cause) in a sequence of information then I am certain to find another event (effect) later in the sequence.


>and that therefore information is caused by that which information
>is about,
>and that therefore there is something more fundamental than

It doesn't follow, aspects of the world could be information, in fact they must be, and there is no reason there can't be information about that information, or information about that.

>Proving the story [brain in a vat] right or wrong doesn't
>necessarily have anything to do with proving anything more
>fundamental than information.

If you and everyone and everything you know are nothing but software programs then ...

>>But nothing can provide anything but information.>>

>What about food, or light, or oxygen?

it's not unusual for programs to require certain specific bits of information to keep from crashing.

>The cell doesn't really understand anything though. It's merely
>responding to stimuli WITHOUT understanding either the stimuli or
>anything else. It's not conscious.

I have a hunch that individual cells are not conscious and I have a hunch that you are, although the only thing in the universe that I know with absolute certainty to have that attribute is me. It's irrelevant however because language doesn't need a frill like consciousness to work.

>The effects [of lightning] are repeatable if the strength and angle
>of the bolt of lightning are the same, and the receiver of the
>"message" is the same,

I wouldn't know, no two lightning bolts on planet earth have ever been identical, and no two target trees for them to hit either.

>Lightning has many letters, formed by the different angles and

A language with an infinite number of letters is as meaningless as a language that has only one. Also, the genetic code has a grammar, for example, 3 letters per word, lightning has no grammar.

>CAU doesn't mean anything to the ribosomes.

Ok if you say so, but tell me one thing, in what way would the ribosome act differently if CAU did mean something to it?

>It causes ribosomes to react in a certain way, but so what?

So it seems rather important, it made me the man I am today, you too.

>If you hand me a message, AND I understand it, then it has meaning

        to me.  If I do not understand it, it has no meaning to me despite         

>the fact that it causes certain reactions in my brain.

But there are lots of messages that will produce nearly identical states in your mind, you will treat one gibberish message much like another even if they're quite different. You'll react to "dxjkhq" in much the same way you would to "kszvbe". In language on the other hand even a small word like "not" can dramatically change the way you react to a message.

                                             John K Clark

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