An often-heard analogy is of the human mind to a computer, but Winston Ewert, a software engineer at the Biologics Institute, thinks the comparison is way out of place.
“The human mind is complex and multifaceted. It encompasses reason, emotion, and action. We don’t say that about computers,” Ewert writes in a post for Mind Matters, published on the Internet by the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence.
The reason we don’t say that about computers is because our minds do something no computer has ever done. Ewert explains:
“Let’s focus on a very simple, fundamental aspect of the mind: It has experiences. Philosophers call these experiences qualia. When we see the color red, hear a bell, or smell a flower, it is a subjective, first-person experience.
“Of course, there are physical processes involved but they result in a mental state. That mental state is what our conscious minds experience. This conscious state is the hard problem of consciousness.”
“Computers are actually very limited. All they can do is transform inputs into outputs.”
We tend to think of computers as being something like a higher form of intelligence because of the speed and complexity of the calculations they are able to perform.
But Ewert says the reality is that “computers are actually very limited. All they can do is transform inputs into outputs. While any computing system can perform any computation (assuming sufficient time and memory), computation alone does not enable the system to act.:
If it’s to do anything other than compute, “a computer must interact with non-computer devices in its environment—typically, screens, keyboards, mice, printers, speakers, etc.,” Ewert says.
But it’s that essential computational functionality that makes the computer what it is, and that distinguishes it from the human mind.
“There is simply no way to generate consciousness out of strictly computational tools. Instead, consciousness is something which interacts with computation.”
“Consciousness is not computation. There is simply no way to generate consciousness out of strictly computational tools,” according to Ewert. “Instead, consciousness is something which interacts with computation.
“This is why we experience minds over which we have partial but not complete control and knowledge. As for the causes of consciousness itself, we can know little except that they are something quite different from the laws of nature we have so far uncovered.”
And it’s the source of that consciousness, friends and neighbors, that points us to the reality of a creative agent outside of the realm of time, space and matter. Christians call that creative agent “God.” Materialists call it “chance.”
Ewert has much more to say on the comparison of the human mind to the computer and I suspect you, like me, will never think of your laptop in quite same way after reading it. Go here.
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