Cognitive Computation

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 99–105 | Cite as

Counterfactuals, Computation, and Consciousness

  • Mark Muhlestein


Using a specially designed cellular automaton capable of emulating completely the function of a human brain, we explore ways in which counterfactual sensitivity, that is, the ability of a computational system to respond to any valid inputs, relates to discrete-state machine consciousness. In this computational framework, the distinction between a computation and the recording of a computation can be blurred arbitrarily, yet the physical implementation of the computation itself is unchanged. From this, we conclude that a purely computational account of consciousness is unsatisfactory.


Consciousness Computationalism Counterfactuals Whole-brain emulation Cellular automata 



Though I cannot say I am persuaded by his conclusions, (e.g., that all reality results from the operation of a universal computer whose mere Platonic existence implies a sort of modal realism), Marchal [12] discusses a thought experiment with projection onto a two-dimensional computer which was an important inspiration for some of the ideas in this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TucsonUSA

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