X-Message-Number: 11680
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: reply to Mike Perry, on consciousness in virtual people
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 22:41:02 +1000 (EST)

This is an answer to Mike Perry:

You seem to believe that the notion that we are emulations in a computer
already has some value, even though there is no experimental evidence for
that idea. I will be stronger here: just what difference does this notion
have from the belief that there is a God (or gods)? Those who like
theology are welcome to it, but it does not become less theological if
we believe in a Programmer rather than a God.

Again you do not believe that a character in a book can be conscious. And
you do give a reason: such characters are not interacting with anything.
Suppose I have a program which contains, first, an emulation of the
world, and second, one or more emulated people living in that emulation.
If I am not running the program at time 1, but running it at time 0,
are these emulated people conscious only when I run the program? I'll
point out that I did not just ask if characters in books were conscious,
but also asked for an answer to the question of whether or not they
were ONCE conscious. I am asking the same for this program.

Basically, since our emulation of the world cannot be very good, it 
seems to me that we cannot consider virtual beings in that emulation as
conscious. You seem to believe that ANY character in a computer emulation
(even just the kind in a computer game) must have awareness because
that character is in some sense active. I will say that in such cases
you do not have an active character, you have a program which gives you
images and statements. The same happens no matter how complex your
program and your virtual characters. What are your boundaries? Why is
it that a virtual machine in a computer game (ie. a car or an airplane)
is not conscious, but the characters are? In both cases the object or
character is active.

Please explain just what characteristics make a virtual object in a 
computer program aware or not.

			Best and long long life,

				Thomas Donaldson

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