Zombies and Simulation

My short commentary on David Chalmers’ paper The Singularity: A Philosophical Approach is coming out in a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies in June, with a response from Dave (plus his response to the other 24 papers). Very cool!

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6 thoughts on “Zombies and Simulation

  1. Interesting commentary, but I’m confused about the compatibility of biologism and physicalism: if the (simulated) zombie is physically identical to me, but has no conscious experience, lacking the biological property necessary for bringing it about, then it would seem like that biological property is nonphysical, no?

    I’m also not sure about the argument re dualism being true in simulated worlds. The problem with such worlds is that they’re not causally closed, which I think should be a requirement for a sensible conception of ‘physical world’ — in fact, I would think that anything that causally influences something physical is itself physical by definition, since all our knowledge of it comes only from its effects anyway. But if that’s the case, then the body outside of the simulation is part of the physical world relatively to the being inside as well. Think about giving the body an adrenaline shot or alcoholic beverages: if the being inside the simulation gets wired or drunk, then the body is physical; if it doesn’t, then the two worlds are completely disconnected, and each is its own, physical, universe.

  2. Yes it is a bit confusing as to exactly what a “perfect” simulation is. If it is just perfect functionally then chalmers is right – if it is perfect in a deeper sense then jochen is right.

    As to the second part, i suppose you could just stipulate that the simulation is (at least now) causually closed – but regardless there remains as much a question of causality between a simulation that happens to match our world for an unexplained reason and a zombie world that also happens to match our world for a similarly unexplained reason.

  3. Thanks Jocen and GNZ!

    Jocen, yes from the point of view of the zombie inside the simulation the biological property is non-physical. I have talked about this a bit more here.

    Re your second point. I think we may be using the term ‘physical’ in slightly different ways. You want to define physical in terms of causation. I want to define physical in terms of deduction. Physical properties are those properties which a completed physics postulates. An object is physical if its existence can be deduced from a given arrangement of physical properties. So the body outside the simulated world is not physical (from the point of view of those inside the simulation) because its existence could not be deduced from the physics that those inside the simulation would know. That physics would be all about the simulated world. I define it that way because it seems basically right to me, and more importantly, this is the way I take Chalmers to define it.

    • Thanks for your reply!

      Hmm, off-hand, and admittedly without having thought about it too much, I’m not sure where the exact difference re our definitions of the physical lies — is there something that is causally efficacious, but not deducible (at least modulo functional equivalence)? It seems to me that anything that leaves a ‘causal footprint’ in the world would be deducible by virtue of that very footprint; or at least, something having the same footprint would have to be postulated for a complete physics.

      So there’s certainly a bit of ambiguity there, but that’s also present in today’s physics via certain so-called dualities: different physical theories, with different ontological commitments (think, for instance, different numbers of physical dimensions), nevertheless may yield the same physics. So it seems that whether or not you count the body outside the simulation as part of the physics as viewed from the inside, the physics on the inside would have to contain something that at least plays the same causal role, at least at first brush.

  4. From the point of view of the outside universe – is not the imperfect simulation where most people hide the cause of biologism?

    Ie a computer replacing a brain draws a line where above which the two systems look identical but below which the chip may be significantly more “dummed down”. But if you make the simulation perfect you dont have scopre to do the dumbing down of the process that Ned Block might do with a blockhead machine etc.

    and FWIW I guess that where the cause of biologism is deducible in our world but not in the simulation it not a perfect simulation…

  5. Sorry bad explaining in the last sentance – by biologism i mean the physical thing that causes conciousness in biologism, and would do so in the simulation if it was there (not that the fact that it causes conciousness).

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