- representation, metabolic computing, machine consciousness

014 - Meaning-and-simulation - Message in a Bottle

2017-10-23 19:34

Because our goal is to construct machines which are conscious, it is not useful to proceed any further unless we can understand where representational phenomena occur. That is, we need to know what kind of simulation system is producing representations or the boundaries of where representational phenomena occur, so that we can recreate a system that produces representation in a machine. To understand this, we are going to use what is an unmistakable kind of representation- a message.

Let’s suppose you are walking along a beach, and you come across a bottle, and inside the bottle is a message. You uncork the bottle, fish out the message, and it says this: Aliens are real. 👽 You could be doing this in a physical world, which you simulate with your brain or perhaps a computer system in your robot body, or you may be a software construct doing this in a virtual world, like living in Grand Theft Auto. Or this is happening in a dream, or you may be a separate organic or machine intelligence operating in a virtual world, as if plugged into the Matrix.

But you, right now, are not really walking on a beach. You are reading this. Perhaps you are reading this on a screen. Which means this message is composed of a bunch of pixels. The medium of the message is pixels:

If you are reading this on paper, the medium is made from inks in certain shapes. The molecular details to form these shapes are what produces the form of the message. We can introspect the form of this message. But where is the meaning of the message? Is the meaning in the ink or the pixels?

Obviously the meaning is not in the ink or the pixels. So where is the in- form-ation of the message? The information of the message are the letters and words and the emoji character.

we could rearrange the pixels and get the same meaning, eg, Aliens sont réels. 👽 or エイリアンは本物です 👽 If I rearrange the pixels bits to this: ਏਲੀਸਲੀ ਅਨ ਅਹਨ👽 or to this lian erea lears. 👽 the meaning of the message is lost. Although it’s not lost if i do this: Alns r rl 👽 or maybe even this 👽 Real!” The medium can be altered to change the form of the message, these message differences may or may not alter the meaning.

if we exist in a fully simulated environment, the pixels are part of that simulation. the information or message components are also part of the simulation. So, Is the meaning also part of that simulation?

It must be, by definition. The simulation system needs to instantiate a meaning to go with the components of the message. And it needs some mechanism to distinguish between pixel phenomena which create meaningful messages and nearly identical pixel phenomena which are meanlngless.

This example of a message shows the meaning and the pixels have no relationship to each other, except when they co-occur together in the form of a message. That is, only pixels which form some kind of message seem to have meaning associated with them. Yet meaning, messages, and pixels are experienced as different phenomena, How does a full simulation manage to attach the meaning to pixels? Because if we exist in a full simulation, we ourselves are being simulated by some extrinsic process, and hence the meanings we experience must also be produced by that extrinsic process.

In this example, the medium is the pixels, the message is from the english language and emoji’s, but the meaning are concepts, even fictional concepts. Somehow the meaning goes along with the message. Where is the meaning? this is the key problem that illuminates what kind of world or simulation we might be living in.

A full simulation must contain all possible meanings and then somehow connect them to the correct set of medium forms or visual” phenomena. the full simulation must cause the association between medium, message, and meaning. Imagining we exist in a full simulation thus presents us with all kinds of problems.

The full simulation is a sort of the reverse cartesian theater. It inverts Descartes idea of mind: If the mind is what makes thoughts then what makes the mind? What are the causes of thoughts produced by the mind. The typical answer leads to a regression of homunculi each imagining the homunculi above it. There is no good answer to the cartesian theater, because the notion of mind cannot explain how thoughts themselves come into existence (as Nietzche showed). The same is true here. If a full simulation makes messages, how does it make meaning and pixels become parts of a message? what causes the medium, the message, and the meaning to connect to each other? And the answer to that is opaque, or it requires a higher order reality in which the full simulation itself occurs - about which we have no information.

The full simulation is not unlike the argument for materialism. That all phenomena are physical phenomena, ergo meaning must also be a physical phenomena. Which brings us back to where is the meaning of this message? and what causes it to be attached to the physical pixels?

The fact that there is information, that there are messages, whose meaning is a different category of phenomena than the medium which expresses the message, indicates that we may not exist in a full simulation. The fact meaning exists indicates we exist in an environment where the manifestation of a message is different than the meaning of the message.

The fact of messages indicates that we exist in an environment where the components of a message: a manifesting component and a meaning component, are elements of some underlying reality. And we associate the meaning parts to the medium parts. That is, something about the reality itself lets meaning and medium co-occur in messages that we are aware of. But if we are unaware of the medium, or unaware of the meaning, we are unaware of the message. eg. aw: medium = medium aw: meaning = meaning. aw:(medium, meaning) = (medium, meaning) -> (medium, meaning) ; message -> aw:message

the medium and the meaning come together where the representation of the message itself occurs. The environment we exist in, is one where meanings exist and where mediums for messages exist. And meanings are not the mediums of messages. And mediums for messages have no meaning. But where both occur together, we get the awareness of messages. Messages are contents of awareness, and they are representational phenomena. They are both conceptual and physical. They are both thought and matter because we are aware of them separately and because they are combined or a made representation.

while this argument is recursive (how could it not be?) the fact of messages indicates we exist in a universe with meaningless non-represenational phenomena - the physical aspect of the universe. And meaningful, representational phenomena, the representational aspect of the universe. It further suggests that simulations are phenomena that happen inside this universe, where representational and physical phenomena interact to create an illusion of physical or representational phenomena. that simulation phenomena themselves are in fact complex physical and representational phenomena which occur because the physical phenomena instantiate meanings and representations.


We can look at this another way. There is a problem when we think about what information is.

The problem of information in a simulation is that Information must be treated as a thing in a simulation unless the simulation only simulates physics. In which case the physics does not contain the meaning of information. This is what we mean by physics - it is not affected by meaning or information. The problem with physics is there is no information in it.

And what is the physics? It is the forces and components of the non- representational. In our observed world, physics are the atomic and molecular interactions which do not contain information or meaning.

So how can we have meaning associated to messages? How can we have false meanings associated to messages? The message aliens are real” contains an obvious fiction about it. How can the physics produce something fictional - completely non-physical?

The only answer to these questions is that non-physical phenomena exist. But what are non-physical phenomena? Meanings are obviously non-physical. What about messages? The structure” of messages are also non-physical. The structure of english, the shape of letters, the combinations of letters into strings, into sounds, the strings forming into words, words into sentences, etc. These are all concepts. they are conceptual ways to form pixels to convey purpose or meaning. The shape of the ink is not a physical phenomena, but a conceptual one.

the structure (building) you are likely sitting in while reading this was certainly physically created. But the shape of the structure is not a physical phenomena. the shape and the cause of the structure is either completely accidental, a side-effect of the billions of molecular interactions which occurred to produce that shape (if you happen to be in a cave) or was built from a conceptual plan or intent which are non-physical ideas. There are no physical forces which form plans or which intend ideas. The physical phenomena are all molecular interactions. Anything above the level of molecular interactions, that enters into the realm of concepts, must be something that is at most only partly physical and partly conceptual or non-physical.

Thus a house is a representational phenomena. If we burned the house down, none of the physical components of the house will have disappeared. It’s just the shape has changed. some of the house entered the atmosphere, some turned to ash in place. some parts, like the ceramic toilets remain unchanged. If that happened we would say, there used to be a house there, but it burned down.”

This indicates that the molecules had formed a structure we call a house and now they do not. The structure was ephemeral. The molecules instantiated a concept of a house and after the fire, they did not. The concept of a house did not come into existence because of the structure any more than the concept ceases to exist with the destruction of the structure. And the very particulars of the shape those molecules took, do not cease to exist when the house burns down, rather the molecules no longer are instantiating those particular shapes and structures.

If someone were to rebuild the burnt house, in exacting detail. And you were to walk through that house, you would say it is exactly the same. The builder recreated the original house. The builder re-instantiated the house. If I type the message Aliens are real” and then erase what I typed, the message has disappeared. But neither the meaning or the concepts necessary to produce the message have ceased to exist in any sort of way. Ideas are explicitly immaterial. If I retype Aliens are real” I have recreated the message. I have re-instantiated the message. The only difference between the house and the message Aliens are real.” is how complicated those different things are. A house is just a particular kind of very complicated message.

Because there are messages we can ask some questions conditional about the nature of reality.

If our reality functions in an extrinsic way, as a simulation must, where the functions and causes of phenomena are dictated by the rules or operations of the simulation, then the association of meaning to the medium of matter in the form of messages must also be determined extrinsically. This is not how physical phenomena appear to work. And because the meanings of messages can be so fungible, eg. ”Aliens are real” is false.” or ”Aliens are real” is true.” this fungibility implies a subjective and reductive quality to representation making. An extrinsic simulation or extrinsic kind of reality is non-reductive, ergo meanings must be extrinsic and non-fungible, or else the fungibility itself is extrinsic. Which means that when a house burns down, the the de- linking of the meaning and shape of the house is done explicitly by the simulation or the reality. And if the simulation or reality does not break these concept of house from the burnt ashes we would experience burnt ashes as a house.

An extrinsic functioning reality or simulations leads to a inevitable paradoxes and contradictions and opaque associations and causes. these contradictions imply that we most likely do not exist in an extrinsic reality or an extrinsic simulation.

Shapes and structures are produced physically, but what the shape is, that is a representational phenomena. The molecules, and molecular interactions operate the way they do, because of their intrinsic nature, not because a shape dictates which molecules go where. There are no explicit designs or plans which dictate or force or cause molecules to take particular shapes or forms. Except of course, when we get ideas and cause our own and other molecules do things.

when we act it looks like the ideas, the designs we have do cause molecules to take shapes, forms, and actions in an aggregate fashion. But this perspective is subjective, or local to the fact of our own representation making.

If reality functions according to intrinsic properties, that is, each element in reality has it’s own intrinsic functions and interactions, as we see with atoms and molecules. Then messages, meanings, and other representational phenomena, would be local, relative, or subjective.

Aliens sont réels 👽

エイリアンは本物です 👽

ਏਲੀਅਨ ਅਸਲੀ ਹਨ 👽

Aliens are real 👽

are messages that mean basically the same thing. But to know this requires you translate or can read the messages for yourself. this shows how meaning is local to the performance of the representational phenomena necessary to read and understand the letters and words. Absent the representational phenomena, which occur subjectively, the meaning of messages are lost. If an organism which performs representations is unable to represent that medium or matter as a message, the fact it is a message is missing from that organisms experience.

If the physical phenomena function intrinsically, and representational phenomena occur locally, then we should expect to see where physical phenomena take shapes which are interpreted as messages or as representational phenomena. And we do see this. We see illusions and meaning in so many things that are just the happenstance of the aggregate interactions of individual molecules. this ability to make mistakes seems only possible in a universe that is reductive and not explicit. the mistakes happen locally, and there is no extrinsic functions or rules, or associations to meanings at all.

but to make and correct mistakes implies there is a level of simulation where meaning and structure is in fact being coupled and decoupled from the non- representational phenomena of physics. And that simulation is, in a sense, what we mean by ourselves. We are performing that simulation process continuously. In general, we could call that process consciousness.

The question then becomes how do physical elements become messages? How is meaning attached to physical elements? how are physical phenomena caused from representational antecedents as we observe in all human action? How are structures and shapes turned into representations and not merely side-effects?

Which leads us back to the original question: Where is meaning?

if we live in a physical universe where physical phenomena are intrinsic functions of matter and where representations are local to the representation making system or local simulation, how does meaning happen? And where is it instantiated?


the key question we want to continually be asking is where is the meaning? When we see a representation, like a message, we want to know where the structure and the meaning of that representation occur.



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