X-Message-Number: 8200
Subject: Consciousness, etc.
Date: Sun, 11 May 1997 13:11:18 -0400
From: "Perry E. Metzger" <>

> From: 
> 1. I have said that the information paradigm is only a postulate, not proven,
> and we do not know whether an inorganic medium--let alone a computer
> simulation--could support consciousness. Metzger says my consciousness is
> only a postulate, not proven (to him). 
> But his own consciousness IS proven to him, and since he knows people are
> much alike biologically, it is nearly certain that other people are conscious
> too. He says this reasoning "doesn't cut it." 'Nuff said.

I am capable of programming a computer with a high degree of
skill. You aren't. Perhaps being conscious requires the ability to
program computers well. Since, as you are fond of saying, we know
little about the nature of consciousness, its entirely possible that
consciousness is present in some biological brains and not in others.

So, again, I ask you to prove -- I mean PROVE -- that you are

Unless you can give me solid reason to believe that you are conscious,
I'm going to end this discussion, on the premise that there is no
point in discussing anything with a mindless automaton that merely
CLAIMS to be conscious.

> a) I (Ettinger) have agreed that I could be a brain in a vat hooked up to a
> VR system. 
> No, I haven't agreed to that: I only agreed I would have a hard time proving
> I am not.

There is no difference. If you can't prove that you aren't, then you
very well could be.

> Actually, his original question, as I recall, was how I could prove he hadn't
> put my body in a vat last week and hooked it up etc. I can very easily prove
> that didn't happen, just by noting that the technology didn't exist last
> week, and doesn't now. 

That isn't proof. Maybe aliens descended and gave me the
technology. Maybe the technology existed but I used part of this high
technology to excise the memory of its existence from your
brain. Saying "you couldn't -- we don't know how" isn't a proof. Its a
vigorous assertion, similar to your insistance that "well, I must be

> But I was answering a more general question, and said that--right now--I
> would have difficulty proving I was or was not in a vat; but gathering
> evidence would not be impossible, as I indicated.

Well, go out and gather some evidence. Show me that you aren't in a
vat. Find something you can use to demonstrate that the "Evil Deciver"
of Decarte's writing isn't controlling your senses. Hint: there is a
reason Decarte gave up on that line of questioning and said that the
only mechanism he had was faith.


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