X-Message-Number: 11635
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 23:48:03 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: A reply to Thomas Donaldson

Thomas Donaldson, #11626, writes:

>More for Mike Perry:
>The important point behind what I was saying in my previous message (why
>Turing machines, or indeed any sequential computer, are quite inadequate
>as machines able to act in the world just as well as persons can) is that
>persons are much more than computational devices.
I submit that persons are no more than computational systems (in case
"devices" bothers you) because everything in our quantum-dominated universe
can be viewed as a computational system. A very complex system, perhaps, but
a computational system just the same. Not necessarily on the level of
something we have built--you need to allow for much more than that. So
quantum computers, and even Turing machines, have the relevance I've
claimed. A sufficiently lengthy computation by no more than a Turing machine
should be able to emulate, not just simulate, a person in full. Of course
this is just a thought experiment, not a proposal for a practical
implementation. To such a person, emulated rain would be just as wet as
"real" rain is to you or me. And I could, in principle, communicate
meaningfully with such persons, so I see no reason not to grant them true
feeling, not just an "imitation." Again, this has little practical
importance, but a deep philosophical significance nonetheless. (And it
certainly isn't an original thought with me, but one that seems correct, and
I've adopted it.) It tells us something about the nature of personhood and
consciousness, that these effects are reducible to digital processing,
essentially to bit-flipping, and do not rest either on inscrutable, mystical
mechanisms or some other properties of reality, whether known or unknown. To
deny this, I submit, is to miss the trees because of the forest.

These opinions in turn are not absolute dogmas with me, just working
hypotheses, but I think they rest on reasonably good evidence.

Mike Perry

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