Saturday, January 15, 2005


I ran across this peculiar thought experiment by David Chalmers.

He starts with the concept of the world as a simulation running in an external reality. But he looks not at the usual case where the brains of the agents in the simulation are also in the simulation, but instead at the different case where their brains are running outside the simulation and where the agents have no direct access to those brains. This is the situation, for example, of a typical "artificial life" system, or of a video game where the characters are driven by some AI system.

Chalmers seems to be claiming that, to the agents living in the simulation, assuming they've gotten interested in the question of what minds are and how they work, the most reasonable explanation is a dualistic one -- and that we ourselves should consider dualistic explanations as not so outlandish.

I see a couple of issues here.

First, it's not clear that the simulated agents need access to their physical brains in order to posit theories of how they work. People have been doing this for years by indirect psychological experiments. It may be possible for the agents to do similar experiments, ones that help them choose between different theories of their cognitive architectures. If they're smart enough and spend enough time on the problem, perhaps they would hit upon the right mechanism.

Second, Chalmer's scenario doesn't make me very much more comfortable about dualism. The analogue in the real world would be that the brain that we see is only a conduit to another "mental world" where the mind really happens. But why would the brain need hundreds of specialized centers to be, in effect, a glorified radio transmitter? One could make a case for this, but it strikes me as enormously unlikely.


Blogger Bob Mottram said...

Agh! I suppose it's possible, but this just seems like a restatement of existing dualistic ideas. You could suggest that our mental processes reside in some other dimension (or universe), or that they rely critically upon some strange unfathomable quantum effects (basically the same thing).

In these cases nothing is really being explained, its just that the cognitive responsibility is getting shifted elsewhere - to an other-worldly humunculus.

If our brains were just glorified transistor radios I wonder whether it would be possible for more than one person to receive the same signal, or perhaps the signals could get mixed up. This would be a great boost for reincarnationists, who would just say that after death the bandwidth gets re-allocated. It would make an amusing sci-fi movie.

It's hard to shake the dualistic ferret from the trouser leg. Our whole language and culture are framed in dualistic terms. I think that we probably do only live in one world though, complex as it may be.

January 16, 2005 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger yo said...

I think you have hit on a point that you may not have thought of. Inter-connectedisms. If that is such a word. Sounds good aye? To the point, the brain is a core of a universe like the sun with planets circling the sun. They are all spinning separate, yet they spin as a whole. An orbiting unit. Much like our brains or spirit reacts to the world forces which spin outside us. The total amount of stimulation we are subjected to in a sec of life we subconsciously react in tandem with a sub system like reaction as parts but yet as a interconnected whole. All problems are at some level interconnected, but the problems only surface as a failure in a part working as a whole. So is it a part spinning around a whole or the whole with just spinning parts? OK, I'm

February 10, 2005 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger ievA said...

if we look on analogies that exist in world ... i would say everything is possible...

It had happened that in one time two or more people get the same idea, write the same music...
It have been that you send sms and at the same time receive it... "if it is once it can be by accident, twice it can be by coincidence, but if it is thrice it is conformity to natural laws..."
So if it happens 15 times in day it is not accident ? Isn't it ? :)

What else ... you have interesting posts, sad that not continued...
What about frames and Minsky ... this i also find interesting and i try to puzzle out ... each time i read that papers find out something new :) fantastic! :)

January 2, 2011 at 7:59 AM  

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