Member # 6
posted 29. August 2002 14:00
Chalmers' double-aspect theory of information
David Chalmers will be chatting at ISCID on September 25th and I thought it would be fitting to open a discussion about his work.
The paper I am discussing (a summary of Chalmers The Conscious Mind) can be found here:
Chalmers intention is to develop a non-reductive yet naturalistic account of consciousness, or more specifically "experience." In order to do this he develops three principles (P1, P2, and P3).
P1 he calls the principle of structural coherence which basically boils down to the idea that the structural properties of the brain correspond with structural properties of experience. Therefore, our explanation of experience is constrained but not exhausted by the information processing states of the brain. Some, but not all, properties of the experience are structural properties.
P2 Chalmers calls the principle of organizational invariance. I read this as the same as a principle of multiple realizability. In other words, it is not the type of matter that matters ;-) but rather the organizational properties of that matter. Two quotes from Chalmers' paper will give you a taste for what he means:
the only physical properties directly relevant to the emergence of experience are organizational properties
quote:Finally we get to P3, which I feel is Chalmers' "strong" contribution to the the philosophy of consciousness. Chalmers calls P3 the double-aspect theory of information. Unlike P2 and P1 which are confirmable through observation, Chalmers offers up P3 as a "basic" or "fundamental" principle on top of which a non-reductive theory of consciousness might be built.
If the causal patterns of neural organization were duplicated in silicon, for example, with a silicon chip for every neuron and the same patterns of interaction, then the same experiences would arise.
Chalmers' double-aspect theory of information can be summed up with the following:
1. information is physically realized
2. information is phenomenally realized
3. whenever we find an information space realized phenomenally, we find the same information space realized physically
Chalmers, in proposing this theory of consciousness, is telling us of a world in which information is fundamental. From the information space, the physical and phenomenal are both realized.
In Chalmers' words:
Wheeler (1990) has suggested that information is fundamental to the physics of the universe. According to this "it from bit" doctrine, the laws of physics can be cast in terms of information, postulating different states that give rise to different effects without actually saying what those states are. It is only their position in an information space that counts. If so, then information is a natural candidate to also play a role in a fundamental theory of consciousness. We are led to a conception of the world on which information is truly fundamental, and on which it has two basic aspects, corresponding to the physical and the phenomenal features of the world.
quote:In conclusion, Chalmers sets out to provide the basic framework for a non-reductive fundamental theory of consciousness. He is content with setting the foundation and does not provide us with causal detail: how exactly does the informational space become realized physically (or phenomenally). However, in setting out to lay the framework he gives us a new paradigm from which to consider not only consciousness but also the very ontology of information, matter and the relation between the physical and experiential (classic mind/body problem). Of particular interest for those who think seriously about teleology:
The informational view allows us to understand how experience might have a subtle kind of causal relevance in virtue of its status as the intrinsic nature of the physical.
1. What can we make of the hypothesis, inferred from Chalmers, that ALL information may have corresponding physical and phenomenal aspects? In other words, where we find the physical aspect we might we very well expect to find some degree of the phenomenal aspect?
2. What bearing does the dual-aspect theory of information have on the way we understand the interaction between intelligence and matter? Is it possible, as Chalmers mentions in the above quote, that "experience might have a subtle kind of causal relevance in virtue of its status as the intrinsic nature of the physical."?
[ 29 August 2002, 14:11: Message edited by: Micah Sparacio ]