Abstract Details

Refuting Algorithmic Consciousness: Why Mind Uploading and Conscious Computers are Impossible  Andrew Knight (Department of Physics, NYU, Department of Physics, Graduate Student, New York, NY )   C2

The possibilities of mind uploading and computer consciousness depend on whether consciousness is fundamentally algorithmic -- that is, whether consciousness can be reduced to a set of input-dependent instructions. Because an algorithm can be executed on a general-purpose computer independently of its underlying physical substrate, any algorithm can be copied with no fundamental limitation on the number of copies that can be executed. Thus, the assumption of algorithmic consciousness implies the copiability of conscious states, leading to a variety of seeming paradoxes, including the problems of duplication/teleportation [1], simulation [2], self-location [3], and the Boltzmann Brain, among others. Despite notable exceptions [4], few physicists or computer scientists question the assumption that consciousness can be copied or simulated by a computer. In an effort to further elucidate the physical nature of consciousness, I challenge these assumptions by analyzing the implications of special relativity on evolutions of identical copies of a conscious state, particularly the divergence of these evolutions due to quantum fluctuations [5]. By assuming the supervenience of a conscious state on some sufficient underlying physical state, I show that the existence of two or more spacelike instances of the same conscious state leads to a logical contradiction if their respective evolutions depend on independent quantum events; moreover, if evolution of those instances does not depend on independent quantum events, then quantum no-cloning prevents the existence of more than one copy. I further show that the existence of two or more timelike instances of the same conscious state leads to a comparable logical contradiction, leading ultimately to a refutation of the assumption that a conscious state can be physically reset to an earlier state or duplicated by any physical means. This conclusion further refutes the notions of mind uploading or simulation, algorithmic or machine consciousness, and Strong Artificial Intelligence. Several explanatory hypotheses are addressed, including: the physical impossibility of adequately measuring a conscious state's underlying physical state, such as if the necessary measurement precision exceeds the limits of quantum uncertainty; and the physical impossibility of recreating a conscious state's underlying physical state, such as if a conscious state's existence depends on a physical history that is embedded in quantum entanglements among spacelike-separated systems. Given that the only known physical mechanism that prevents the existence of multiple copies of the same entity is quantum no-cloning, the conclusion that the copiability of conscious states violates known physical laws indicates unanticipated parallels between the uniqueness and unclonability of conscious states and quantum states. References: [1] Penrose, R., 1989. The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Law of Physics. Oxford University Press. [2] Bostrom, N., 2003. Are we living in a computer simulation?. The Philosophical Quarterly, 53(211), pp.243-255. [3] Elga, A., 2004. Defeating Dr. Evil with self-locating belief. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 69(2), pp.383-396. [4] Aaronson, S., 2016. The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine. In: The Once and Future Turing: Computing the World. Cambridge University Press. [5] Knight, A., 2020. Relativistic Implications for Physical Copies of Conscious States. arXiv preprint arXiv:2005.04101.