X-Message-Number: 17954
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001 21:18:43 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Parallel Universes, Sinners, and So Forth

>... but surely, Mike, you don't believe in parallel universes?
>William Henderson. [#17939]

Well, I am not a dogmatist. But yes, I think the evidence for parallel 
universes is strong enough to take quite seriously and I do accept their 
existence as a working hypothesis. See my book, chs. 5-6, or better yet, 
Deutsch's *The Fabric of Reality*. Something's nudging those photons in the 
two-slit experiment, and it also leads to computational algorithms that 
aren't easy to explain unless something "extra" is happening beyond our 
home territory.

>[#17941] From: Charles Platt <>
>Subject: machine pain
>This is an off-topic post.

Should I say, Welcome to the company of sinners?
Actually, my feeling is, it's relevant to the larger issues we *ought to 
be* confronting as we pursue our place in the future, thus on-topic 
enough--thanks for posting it.

>...I'm not sure that it is really
>"wrong" to allow an entity to suffer--robotic or otherwise. It just
>_feels_ wrong (to some people, anyway).

Cost-benefit analysis suggestions: It's a long future, hopefully; one must 
consider what effects one's actions could have over long periods to arrive 
at a reasonable assessment of what would be appropriate actions, and with 
them, feelings and attitudes. In my book I argue that benevolence (by 
implication, in thought as well as action) is the best course in view of 
the long haul. Be good to others, and care when they are hurting. (And 
"others" are not necessarily limited to humans or biological organisms.) 
This, I think, will prove to be best overall, in terms of enlightened 

>From: Dave Shipman <> [#17946]
>Subject: In Defense of Consciousness (continued)
>         Sometimes I like to go down to the beach on a nice day. I sit on 
> the wall
>and watch the waves come in. There's a gentle sea breeze which brings with
>it the smell of salt air mixed with the pungent aroma of some seaweed that
>has washed up nearby. A boy and his mother are on the beach flying a kite.
>There's a pretty blond flirting with a surfer. I don't actually have to
>think the words "Life is good". But it is.
>         Contrast this scenario of conscious experience with a quote from 
> #17916:
>     "I suggest that consciousness is nothing more than an
>     additional routine that simulates the personal effects of
>     alternative actions, and chooses accordingly.
>     This would be very easy to simulate."
>Huh? Charles, your use of the term "consciousness" must refer to something
>very different from what I have been talking about.

Charles, I would say, is thinking in terms of the function of consciousness 
more than the experience. Also, there is a lot implied in a few words: "the 
personal effects," for instance. There have to be "personal effects." This 
is where your "experience of consciousness" comes in. Do you want to go to 
the beach again? Why? You have to have both a personal experience *and* be 
able to remember it afterward. (It's true, you might have the experience 
and totally forget it, but that wouldn't generally favor survival, and 
nature didn't design your consciousness accordingly.)

>         Charles goes on to tell a great story of how his clever cat 
> walked in its
>previous footsteps in the snow in order to avoid the troubles of walking on
>fresh snow. But this story illustrates the intelligence of the cat, not its

It does illustrate intelligence, but consciousness too, I think. The cat in 
some way was clearly aware of its *feeling* the first time around, walking 
through the snow, and, remembering certain aspects of that, wanted to 
minimize these effects.

>         Now sitting next to me on the side opposite the cat is my Beach
>Observation Tool (BOT). The BOT is a contraption I built in my workshop and
>consists of a video camera pointed toward the beach, an anemometer to
>measure wind speed, and a chemical detector to detect the presence of
>sodium chloride and seaweed esters in the air. The BOT senses the same
>natural phenomena as the cat and I, but I doubt if it is having the same
>experience, or indeed any experience whatsoever.

Experience, I would say, must involve feeling to qualify as "real" in the 
sense of being something more than mere detection. There doesn't seem to be 
much or any feeling in your BOT, but you could have included a simple 
"feeling register" to begin to address that. Maybe the register simply 
records a numerical value at selected intervals, based on the various 
inputs. Now make your BOT able to do things, not just sense, and make it 
try to act in such a way that its feeling, averaged, say, over a few 
seconds, minutes, or hours--your choice--is maximized. Give it the ability 
to adjust its behavior (modify its own software, within limits) and to keep 
track of the effects of the various adjustments it tries out. To go 
further, you could incorporate semi-autonomous agents in the BOT's 
software, each of which is trying to optimize its own experiences, with a 
central decision maker to decide who gets the upper hand in a given 
circumstance. When one agent gets what it wants, it's vote gets weaker in 
proportion, but then get's stronger as time passes. (This would make sense 
if one of the agents was involved in keeping the batteries recharged, for 
instance.) Then, I think, you'd have the beginnings of demonstrated 
consciousness, or at least something to challenge the doubters.

>From:  [#17947]
>Subject: Immortality: Why don'tmore people know???
>I've been reading about sciences like biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI, 
>and the like that many people feel will create near-immortality in the 
>very near future.  If this is the case, why/how don't more people know of 
>this being imminent?

Well, it's hard to say you "know" that something will happen soon, if it 
hasn't happened yet. There will be differences of opinion. Generally, 
people do not want to change their thinking in radical ways, and will 
resist doing so until the evidence is too strong to ignore. It may be that 
near-immortality will have to be here already before the world at large 
acknowledges the possibility.

Mike Perry

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=17954