Re: This is just a copy

Randall R Randall (
Wed, 8 Jul 1998 20:29:03 -0400

On Tue, 7 Jul 1998 20:37:02 -0400 (EDT) Daniel Fabulich <> writes:

>John Clark's "Waiting for Zed" has a good discussion about The Identity
>Indiscernables: that if two things cannot be told apart from one
>then they are the same. Take a look at this at:

John K Clark wrote, in "Waiting for Zed":

Btw, I have horribly mangled John's actual statements, to show the ones I disagreed with. If I have distorted the intent of the original statements, please do not
hesitate to let me know.

>Alf: Because it's just crazy. You say that atoms are interchangeable
>but that's clearly not true. If I see one atom here and another atom
>over there then somehow I am able to tell them apart.

>Bob: How do you know the particles are not changing positions, and
>would anything be different if they did?

It seems to me that Bob, here, has conceded the argument, so far, by using "they" instead of "it". He realizes that there really are two separate atoms, not just one in two places. They are certainly interchangable, but not only one atom, in reality.

>that. Atoms have no individuality, If they can't even give
>themselves this property I don't see how they can give it to us.

Atoms cannot be wet, either, or soft, or...but you see the point.

>Bob: Before you claim a reductio ad absurdum proof you should be
>certain that the conclusion really is absurd and not just odd. If
>the information on how my mind operates is put into a computer and
>then my body is destroyed my consciousness does not stop; if two
>phonographs are synchronized and playing the same symphony and you
>destroy one machine, the music does not stop.

*Half* of the music being played does indeed stop, though. You can measure the volume and notice a lower level, so *something* is gone.

>I think our key
>disagreement is that you think we are an object, I think we are a

I would say that we are a process running on an object. :)

>Bob: What did you have in mind?
>Alf: Oh I don't know, call it Process X. I'm not talking about
>anything supernatural that we can never understand. I know you don't
>like that sort of thing. I'm talking about a perfectly rational
>principle that we just haven't discovered yet. There is a lot we
>don't know and the human brain is the most complex object in the
>observable universe, we've only been studying it for a short time so
>we may be in for some major surprises.

>Bob: I'm glad you said Process X was rational, that means we can use
>our minds to examine what sort of thing it might turn out to be. It
>seems pretty clear that information processing can produce something
>that's starting to look like intelligence, but we'll assume that
>Process X can do this too, and in addition Process X can generate
>consciousness and a feeling of self, something mere information
>processing can not do.

I don't know whether information processing is all that we are, but...

>What Process X does is certainly not simple, so it's very hard to
>avoid concluding that Process X itself is not simple.

What do you mean by "simple"? It may be simple for whatever mechanism produces it. It is pretty simple for water to be wet; it's just an emergent property of those atoms and bonds. *Simulating* wetness is considerably more difficult, and it could be argued that you can't simulate wetness without simulating water as well. To bring this back to consciousness, it may be that we can only produce consciousness by simulating whatever it is that produces consciousness in the brain, if that something is not really information processing.

>Basically that's the Turing Test. This test
>is not a perfect instrument for studying consciousness and it has
>not been proven to work and will never be proven to work, but it's
>the best tool we have and the best we will ever have for studying
>this question.

Maybe not the best we will ever have. I think that we may be able to decipher exactly how consciousness is produced.

>Bob: Not so. I'm sure you could dream up a really nifty theory about
>consciousness, I'm sure you could come up with lots of them. It's
>easy to invent consciousness theories (but not theories about
>intelligence!)because there are no facts they must explain. How are
>you going to tell which of the many theories is correct? In the
>final analysis all you'll have to work with are external things like
>actions and the physical state of a brain. That works fine for
>examining intelligence but you can't prove it's enough for
>consciousness. As a practical matter we must assume that
>consciousness and intelligence are inter-linked so if something acts
>just like you it is conscious just like you, The Turing Test.

Once we learn how to record and playback memory studies of consciousness will have an experimental basis, no?

>The only way to know for sure what it's like to be me is to turn your
>brain into an identical copy of mine, but then you wouldn't be you,
>you'd be me.

Playing back selected memories would be
a better approach, I'd imagine. Since I
can select a certain memory to think about, a hypothetical machine that understands how the brain works would be able to do it as well.

> if a computer acts like me it is me. Is that about right?
>Bob: That's a little compressed, but yes, that's about it.

If *I* act like you, am I you?
Suppose that I've apent the last
20 years studying you in every
waking moment. I should then be

able to act like you in every
conceivable circumstance, yet I
am *still* not you. :)


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