[ExI] Is the brain a digital computer?

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 22 13:37:16 UTC 2010

--- On Mon, 2/22/10, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

>> In general, nature "follows" no supposed laws or
>> algorithms. She just does what she does, and humans talk
>> about it with computations and so-called laws of physics.
> Yes, this is something I more or less said before. There is
> no fundamental low level difference between a computer
> implementing a program and a brain generating thought.

You start your first sentence with "yes" as if you agree with my words, but your second sentence shows that either you disagree or misunderstand.

I consider computations of natural processes as acausal descriptions of material processes. By "acausal", I mean that although we may ascribe computational descriptions to natural processes, those computations will reflect no real underlying causal mechanisms. Such programs *describe* and *predict* natural processes but they do not *cause* natural processes. 

This means we cannot actually duplicate natural processes with software. We can only *simulate* those processes, and simulations of natural processes have no real-world qualities; they exist only as digital descriptions of real things, as digital models of real things, as digital depictions of real things.

Consider the example of a computation of a weather system, let us say a hurricane. Given enough information and the correct inputs, our computation will in principle perfectly describe and predict the hurricane's behavior. I think you will agree however such a perfect simulation would not prove that programs actually *cause* hurricane behavior.

I do not believe the brain qualifies for any special exception to this rule. What applies to hurricanes and other natural processes applies also to the human brain. Despite the fact that we sometimes think of the brain as an "information processor", on close inspection our use of that term does not justify abandoning the view that the brain exists as just another natural object in nature, especially as it concerns consciousness. So then just as real hurricanes do not exist as computations, neither do real brains exist as computations.



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