X-Message-Number: 21614
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 12:56:06 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Reply to Thomas Donaldson

Thomas Donaldson, #21605, writes in part

>Subject: CryoNet #21468 - #21474
>HI for Mike Perry:
>Yes, I know this is a late reply. I got lots of Cryonets when I
>was out of contact for a while and have been dipping into the
>older ones when I get the chance.
>As for awareness in computers, the problem is that they remain
>symbolic devices ie. devices which manipulate symbols.

Thomas, by appearances, is responding specifically to my message #21474 
(some clarification would have been helpful). He goes on to say,

>As human beings we find it hard to imagine brains which do not use 
>symbols, but most animals provide examples.

A statement like this overlooks a point I have been trying to make for a 
long time; I will try once more, as briefly as possible. It is that, at the 
quantum level, all processing is apparently in discrete jumps, and in fact 
equivalent to what computers do, that is to say, "symbolic." (Quantum 
mechanics, that is, is Turing computable.) If that is true, it undercuts 
any attempt to argue for "non-symbolic" processing on higher levels, such 
as what natural brains may be doing. If they seem to be non-symbolic, it is 
an illusion, much as matter seems infinitely divisible, though we know it 
isn't. In practical terms, of course, it may be infeasible to simulate a 
brain with a bit-crunching device of our own making; certainly that is true 
today. But if quantum mechanics is a sufficiently accurate description of 
reality we have to conclude that everything is ultimately "symbolic," a 
point that is philosophically important, whatever the practical limits of 
our devices.

Mike Perry

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