X-Message-Number: 14875
Date: Tue, 07 Nov 2000 23:52:44 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Turing Tome, Immortality, Consciousness

Bob Ettinger writes in #14842 (as noted by Lee Corbin, #14865):

>Let me repeat my Turing Tome counterexample, in part,
>with a slightly different emphasis. Imagine a huge book,
>containing code for a person and his lifetime (or a large
>segment of it, including his environment). Is the book 
>alive? Does it have feelings? Is anything happening?
>It must be alive and feeling, if you believe that isomorphism
>is everything. And you can't escape by saying the program must be running
>in an active computer. If isomorphism is good enough for
>space and for matter, why isn't it good enough for time?

One thought is that the Turing Tome could never isomorphically model
immortality (or an immortal being) because it would have to be an infinite
record. (That is, an infinite amount of experience, meaning an infinite
amount of information, would have to figure in a reasonable notion of
immortality, by my criteria, which are also echoed in Tipler's book.)  By
appearances, such is impossible in our universe--any constructible record
would have to be finite. It might grow with time, but that would make it
part of an active process, not just a static record. So in this case time
must be modeled with time--space alone won't do--and I would say it's far
and away the most important case, if immortality itself is possible in our

More generally, in confronting the Turing Tome problem (and somewhat echoing
thoughts that Lee makes in his posting), I find myself fallling back on
intuition. Suppose I could engage in some reasonable interaction with a
being who seems conscious both on external behavior and internal states
which map isomorphically to states of a system that I already accept as
conscious (e.g. a normal, functioning brain). Then I see no reason not to
accept the being as conscious *in my universe*, or perhaps I should just
say, relative to my frame of reference, whatever it might be. Clearly I
can't interact this way with a book (or what appears as a book or static
record, relative to my frame of reference), though I might well do so with a
computer program, especially a sophisticated one of the future. But it will
not be necessary to answer the question of what attributes of consciousness
we should, must, or must not attribute to the book to decide whether an
active system such as a non-meat computer is conscious.

Mike Perry

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