X-Message-Number: 21691
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 10:33:54 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: CryoNet #21681 - #21689

For Bob Ettinger:
No, everything we do is NOT symbolic. The fact that we can use
symbols to describe it does not mean that it is itself symbolic,
other than in the trivial sense in which you simply identify
events and symbols. I will go so far as to say that this is
a fundamental but common error which ultimately comes from the
fact that human beings use language to describe the world. (Yes,
we describe the world with a symbolic language, but the world
itself is not symbolic).

What is a symbol? Some event or thing which represents something
other than itself. You are not a symbol for Bob Ettinger, though
your name is. Our DNA is not symbolic, it is a chemical with 
features which allow self-reproduction in the proper milieu.

And following on this, for Mike Perry:
Much of what I've said to Bob applies to what you say. The world
may or may not turn out to be discrete (though recent attempts
to imagine units of distance as discrete, as a way of reconciling
relativity and quantum mechanics, raise some fundamental problems).
That discreteness in no way means that it is symbolic. Yes, if
you wish you can consider anything to be symbolic of virtually
anything else, but it is YOU who brings in the symbols, not the
world itself.

To say that events are "fundamentally computational in nature"
raises similar issues. When we (or any other intelligent symbol-
using creature) compute the passage of an event, our computation
remains a symbolic act. If the Alcor facility burns down, it is
not carrying out a computation, it is burning down. It is not
the nature of events which makes them computational, it is
our ability to use mathematics to compute a sequence of events
which TELLS OF what happens. (If you mean by your statement that
discreteness makes it possible for us to compute events, and
that is what you mean by saying that events are "computational",
I wouldn't argue with you --- though you omit the computer).

No doubt this fails to convince both of you. Well, too bad.
I always reply to my email late in the evening, and its time
for me to go to bed once more.

         Best wishes and long long life for all,

             Thomas Donaldson

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