SCIENCE AND CONSCIOUSNESS


by Coonal Kadam 

This is a hastily prepared homepage. I was informed about google pages by the google help group on 11 Jan 08. My document tintin was published on 21 Feb 08. Rudy Rucker made an entry in his blog on 22 Jan 08 on consciousness and gnarly computations. His blog referred to a paper contributed to the Kyoto "What is Life" Conference of Oct 07.

We quote most of the second section of Rucker's Kyoto paper below:

Everything is a Gnarly Computation

I enjoy using a dialectical approach to develop ideas, as I am Georg Hegel's great-great-great grandson. Usually we think of dialectic in terms of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis -- the synthesis represents an escape from the contradiction found between the thesis and the antithesis. This pattern is called a dialectic triad.

I'll start with a dialectic triad whose synthetic component is my statement (2): Every naturally occurring phenomenon can be regarded as a gnarly computation. My first version of this triad appears in a book whose title summarizes  the argument: The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul. [2005]. This title is a pattern of the form thesis, synthesis, and antithesis. (If I wanted to closely match the usual order of ideas, I might have called the book The Lifebox, the Soul and the Seashell. But that phrase doesn't roll off the tongue so well.

My thesis in this case is statement (1): Every object or process is a computation. My name for this thesis thesis Universal  Automatism. Universal Automatism says the world is made of computations. A particularly contentious case of Universal Automatism is the statement that a human mind is a computation. In my book's title, I represented this case of the Universal Automatism thesis by the word "lifebox," which is a (still science-fictional) device that holds enough data and algorithms to fully emulate a person's behaviour. I feel that we will see lifeboxes on sale within a century or two.

In order to make Universal Automatism more believable, I have to use a very inclusive notion of computation. So I say that a computation  is any process that obeys finitely describable rules.

Do note, rather than saying that the world is one single computation, I prefer to say that the world consists of many computations -- at high and low levels. There need not be any single underlying master computation -- no robot voice reciting numbers in the dark. Indeed we are a seething swarm of little computations made of yet smaller computations.

My antithesis in the book's dialectic triad, expressed by the word "soul," is the existential observation that consciousness doesn't feel  like a computation. We have an innate sense of awareness that we express by the phrase "I am."  One has a feeling that being conscious involves merging into the world, which doesn't seem like something a computation would easily do. Dreams and religious visions also give us a feeling of having a higher consciousness that's not captured by computation.

My synthesis in this dialectic triad is to claim that naturally occurring computations can in fact have the richness of consciousness. Furthermore I argue that all naturally occurring processes are in fact complex enough to be gnarly computations.

Gnarly computations are complex and unpredictable -- the computation in my document tintin is of this type.

The discussion on Rudy Rucker's dialectical argument is continued on my page

Consciousness and Science II

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When discussing the connection between consciousness and science, it is important to realise that the Christian point of view is untenable. In this connection, your attention is drawn to a discussion at the google group http://groups.google.com/group/a-civil-religious-debate on 3 Mar 08. The original message was titled

The Truth about Trinity

by thewayoftruth1. Subsequent messages of significance are:

The sheer irrationality of Christian writers is almost impossible to answer.My posting to GOOGLE group "A CIVIL AND RELIGOUS DEBATE" on 10 Mar 08 contains a reference to the Quran, Surah IV, v. 157. An online copy of the Quran is found at http://quraninenglish.com.

It is useful to have the Arabic text of the Quran at hand since no English translation can be regarded as entirely authoritative.

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This site contains an assortment of articles on science, history and philosophy.