X-Message-Number: 11648
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 11:10:11 EDT
Subject: Living Turing Tape?

Damien Broderick wrote:

>Mike Perry wrote:

<< 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. >

<I've never grasped why people have any trouble with this
almost-self-evident truth.

It is fully self-evident--but only if you first assume that emulation is 
possible. The "information paradigm" is only a moderately plausible 
hypothesis, not anything proven.

>Whether this procedure is instantiated on a protein brain or an array of
distributed neurodes seems to me to make no difference at all. 

It makes a difference if the protein brain has capabilities that the ersatz 
one lacks, and such a difference is certainly not ruled out. In particular, a 
Turing Tape cannot do more than one thing simultaneously in real time. If you 
fall back on the assertion that only isomorphism matters, and not real-time 
relationships, you are just asserting dogma. 

> I draw the line, however, at seeing the printed algorithmic description of 
Einstein's brain as conscious, since it's not having any run-time. 

There's the rub, or one of the rubs. WHEN is the program "running" in a 
Turing tape computer? During the time the machinery is moving the tape? 
Hardly. During the time the head is reading or writing? Scarcely. During the 
time the machinery is consulting the program and executing the next 
instruction? Hard to see why. Yet at all other times, nothing is happening. 

You could claim that a succession of "printed pages," or a succession of sets 
of numbers, corresponds to a succession of brain states, and each such state 
constitutes a condition of awareness, and the consecutive "display" 
constitutes action or life, somewhat like a succession of film frames in a 
movie. Such a notion has not been proven false, but it hasn't been proven 
true either, and it seems exceedingly implausible to me. Awareness, in my 
opinion, almost certainly requires time binding and space binding, neither of 
which a Turing Tape offers.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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