X-Message-Number: 11814
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 17:08:42 EDT
Subject: Turing Tape & Turing Tome--clarification

Recent posts suggest I need to clarify the differences between certain types 
of simulation or substitution. 

Could an ordinary computer--call it a Turing Tape--predict or describe the 
behavior, including internal changes, of a person (human brain)over time? In 
principle it could, if (a) it were given sufficiently complete and accurate 
information both about the laws of nature and about the initial state of the 
brain, and if it were also (b) given needed information about the environment 
with which the brain interacts over time. 

We could satisfy (b) in either of two says. (1) The tape could be given 
ongoing data as to the signals to the brain, and physical effects on the 
brain, from the environment; or (b) the tape could initially be given enough 
information about a sufficiently large region of the environment so that it 
could predict or describe the total system, brain cum environment, over time, 
to the desired accuracy. Let's now confine ourselves to (b), since this 
allows us to see more clearly one of the problems with simulations.  

With respect to its ability to predict or describe the changes in the brain, 
the (b) computer could be completely replaced by a book, the Turing 
Tome--because the Tape could be used to write the Tome. If the Turing Tome is 
just as useful as the Turing Tape in predicting or describing successive 
states of the brain, this certainly appears to weaken any claim that the 
"activity" of the Tape makes it superior to the Tome as to claims of 

Reiterating, it seems to me--even without resorting to any special postulates 
about the nature of consciousness, and even without pointing to the real-time 
infidelities of the Tape--that unless you are willing to go whole-hog 
isomorphism, and claim the Tome is conscious, then you can scarcely claim the 
Tape is conscious. Or at least, you cannot use the Tape's predictive or 
descriptive abilities as evidence of consciousness, because the Tome also has 
those exact same abilities.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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