Monday, December 23, 2013


I am not my brain, I am the information patterns that are encoded in my brain. The atoms in my brain are cycled out into the surrounding environment, the water molecules quickly, the others more slowly. And whatever the flux, the quarks and electrons within my skull are fundamentally indistinguishable from those in the trees and the air and all the rock below - only the arrangement differs. A sufficiently powerful computer, programmed correctly, could faithfully replicate the information processing carried out by my neurons, and I would accordingly find myself existing, experiencing the same qualia, typing out the same words. I am the information pattern, not the physical substrate.

And yet, I am the general type of information pattern that would be naturally generated by, embedded within, a physical substrate like a brain. An information pattern that is realized within a physical substrate in necessarily constrained by that substrate - only so much memory is available, and only some finite number of calculations can be performed, with a given number of atoms and useful energy. Being embedded with a physical environment also shapes the sensory input that a mind receives, and presents the challenge of continued survival. This is in contrast to abstract Turing machines effortlessly processing arbitrary input strings, out floating in Platonia. The constraints imposed from existence within a physical universe are key in generating nontrivial information structures, and nontrivial observers in particular.

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