X-Message-Number: 11802
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: To Daniel Crevier, re objections to his thesis
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 00:19:23 +1000 (EST)


If I understand Bob Ettinger's comments, he is questioning first of all
whether or not a computer could behave in ALL RELEVANT RESPECTS just like
a human brain. That IS a question which needs answering before we go 
off and decide that we can be read off into computers.

I personally think there is no metaphysical problem about making a device
capable of behaving like a human being AND having awareness (you should
know that with MRI studies scientists have begun to be able to locate
all kinds of different brain functions, and awareness is likely to be
one in a relatively short time). I will add that this feature will be
much harder than many computer people seem to think: among other
points, it is quite insufficient merely to make a computer which is as
"intelligent" (whatever intelligence may be) as a human being. Much more
will be needed. And we may even have to readjust our notion of what is
and what is not a computer to do that; for instance, as I said in my
last message, the sense in which we are finite state machines differs
from that in which our current computers are finite state machines.

But I do think there is a problem with a virtual person living in a
virtual world in a computer. The problem comes because that person is only
a symbolic entity, just like a fictional character in a book. Sure, as
as symbolic entity in its symbolic world, it can behave like a real
person --- but so can a fictional character. 

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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