X-Message-Number: 27606
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 23:03:34 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: "brain in toilet"
References: <>

from rbr, #27589:

>...if, as the patternists claim, a
>simulation of a thing has the same properties as that thing (in
>this case, the ability to experience), then by interpreting the
>molecular and quantum states of the atoms in your toilet, I can
>give literal existence to a program running your brain in a virtual
>world. Which implies you (or some fascimile of you, if you don't
>completely accept patternism) are already alive and well, living
>out your life in the confines of a toilet.

If a reasonable "interpretation" like this were possible, then it should 
also be possible to converse in a sustained and meaningful way with the 
"brain in the toilet." But I think this is impossible, unless the notion of 
"interpreter" is broadened beyond its own reasonable limits. I think it 
fair to insist that an acceptable interpreter be a more-or-less fixed 
device of some sort, that serves as a translator only, expressing certain 
events in terms of certain other events. Such a device might to many 
things, and I'll be lenient for the sake of argument and suppose it even 
conjures up characters that converse, either with each other or possibly 
with you. Perhaps it would use the Brownian motion and/or molecular details 
of an object nearby (the "toilet") as a source of information (essentially 
random bits) for this performance. But at the end of the session the device 
must revert to its original state or something close. (Otherwise, if it 
could store information from one session to the next, it becomes something 
different from what it was.) So it would forget what happened before, and 
could not recover the same characters again, with their knowledge of you 
and of themselves that they have related to you. Or, if you kept it going 
indefinitely, then it would have to store information to keep conversations 
going and not forget--thus change over time. This I think makes a 
reasonable argument that persons, from a patternist standpoint, are not 
living out their lives within inanimate objects. An "interpreter" that made 
it seem so would itself be the principal source of this "embedded life," 
and again must unacceptably change over time. (Also I haven't mentioned 
complexity arguments, which would be relevant. A person is a rather 
complicated thing, informationally speaking, and I doubt you could achieve 
a reasonable match with any old chunk of jostling atoms.)

Mike Perry

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