X-Message-Number: 11915
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: why must the Turing Tome interact with anyone?
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 23:53:45 +1000 (EST)

To Mike Perry:

Sorry, but I've given in to temptations to talk about the Turing Tome.

It's far from obvious to me that it must be conscious (in whatever sense)
of any arbitrary person to still count as being conscious (if, that is,
we assume that a Turing machine is conscious). I'm not aware, myself, of
most of the human race. So why must a Turing Tome be able to respond
(by definition) to any other arbitrary person?

This might go further. Imagine someone held in a solitary cell. He has
various things to amuse (?) himself, but no contact with anyone.
Periodically the Warden places his meals in a suitable slot, and his 
wastes are removed in the standard fashion. This person might be said to
still be conscious, even though he interacts with NOBODY. So why should 
a Turing Tome be able to react to ANYONE? Of course if it reacts with
no one, then the distinction between an active computer program and
a written text becomes empty. 

One problem I can see is that the Turing computer is programmed to 
respond to others, and without those others it simply becomes quiescent ie
does nothing at all. To me, this is just another problem with using
Turing machines as models of conscious people: even if no one is about,
we still do not NECESSARILY fall into total quiescence. And when someone
does show up, we can describe what we were doing while alone. (That 
some people may well fall asleep in such situations does not vitiate
this point). A major part of consciousness, perhaps the prior existing
part, consists not just of the ability to carry on a conversation in
English or some other language, but also the ability to act in the 
world... and perceive the world. Any machine unable to do that has at
most a very restricted consciousness.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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