20070817

David Darling: Equations of Eternity

Subtitle: "Speculations on Consciousness, Meaning, and the Mathematical Rules that Orchestrate the Cosmos." In my defense for checking it out of the library, the subtitle of Crick's Astonishing Hypothesis is "The Scientific Search for the Soul," and that was the publisher's fault.

It turns out, though, to be just as amusing as the subtitle would suggest. In particular, it contains the first serious exposition of the homunculus fallacy I've ever read:

Not least, the forebrain serves as the brain's "projection room," the place where sensory data is transformed and put on display for internal viewing. In our case, we are (or can be) actually aware of someone sitting in the projection room. But the fish's forebrain is so tiny that it surely possesses no such feeling of inner presence. There is merely the projection room itself, and a most primitive one at that.
This occurs, thankfully, on page 7; and it's a determined reader who's made it through manglings of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the word "evolve." But if you can stomach any more of this guy I'd bet the rest of the book is hilarious.

On a side note I don't know if the following argument makes any sense:

Say you have a perfect digital model of a finite universe containing conscious beings. Assume anything that appears random in our world (i.e. exact positions of subatomic particles) may be modeled as pseudorandom. So we have an extrinsically explicit representation of the world, but not identity; characteristics of one particle are represented by the states and relationships of many other particles. The way the data is organized, from our point of view as programmers, can't possibly make the difference between whether the simulated creatures are actually conscious or not. Either they are, and perhaps we should consider the ethics of writing murder mysteries, or they are not, and there is something very special about the most efficient form of information storage. Or our universe isn't finite and so we don't have to care.


5 comments:

  1. note to self : do not write when tired and full of stimulants, unless you want to sound like this man

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  3. Yes, we always make fun of, and deride, what we cannot understand. We are very wise that way.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Yes, we always make fun of, and deride, what we cannot understand. We are very wise that way.

    ReplyDelete