It’s a truism that’s often heard among smart people in conversations on Capitol Hill and elsewhere and it goes something like this: “The human mind thinks and processes just like a computer.”
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? After all, minds, or our brains, and computers use logic to process information – “inputs” – and then produce “outputs,” typically in words or numbers.
But here’s something to think about: If the human mind “thinks” like a computer, that’s really odd because, according to The Stream’s senior editor, Tom Gilson, computers don’t in fact think. They can’t think.
Here’s just a sample of Gilson’s explanation for why there is little similarity between human minds or brains, and that Mac or PC on which you are likely reading this post:
“Reasons can’t be reduced to a brain’s chemicals or its electrical state. If they could, they just wouldn’t be reasons anymore. They’d be electrochemical reactions instead.
“You wouldn’t be able to say you had reasons for your beliefs, just the illusion of ‘reasons.’ Your beliefs (and the illusion, too) would be physical outputs of physical things going on inside your brain, following physical laws that can’t be altered or broken, producing what they must produce, whether that output is good or bad, right or wrong. Physical laws don’t know good from bad, or right from wrong.”
Why should you care about this? Well, for one thing, if the physical world of matter, energy, gravity, light, time and sense is the whole of reality, then there is no such thing as good and bad, right and wrong, moral and immoral, truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness. It all just is.
And when you think about that, among much else, it ought to become evident why that’s not the kind of world anybody would choose to live in. Because, if their minds work just like a computer, they can’t think and, if they can’t think, they can’t choose.
Go here for the rest of Gilson’s excellent piece.