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59719Re: shaping essence

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  • Jim
    Apr 28, 2013

      Thank you for your detailed response.

      When talking about computers and computer programs I think you need to distinguish between traditional computers which have a "Central Processing Unit" (CPU) and which work by executing one command at a time, and "neural network" computers which, like the human brain, have thousands, millions, billions of neurons, each connected to hundreds of others.

      The traditional computers can be loaded with programs which can then be run via a "Run" command.

      Neural networks – like our brains, and the next generation of computers – are not programmed as such, rather they "learn" by trial and error – where "success" states are reinforced, strengthening certain neuronal connections and weakening others. For neuronal networks it doesn't really make sense to talk about them being "programmed" – or so I understand things.

      I also think your metaphors of "applying formalas" or "running scripts" are suspect. The problem here is the spectre of an infinite regress. What runs the scripts, or applies the formulas? Another script/formula. And what runs that script/formula? Another script/formula. And so on to infinity. There is no tiny homunculus inside our brains to direct things, there is no "master neuron" which controls all the others.

      For these reasons I think it best just to talk of persons, individuals, who make decisions and initiate and sustain actions. Sure my brain's neuronal activity is the physical basis for my decisions, my actions, my thoughts and feelings, but still it is I, Jim Stuart, the human person, who makes the decision and is responsible for the consequences of the decision.

      Sure our memories are somehow "stored" in the neurons and the neuronal connections, but I still think talk of running programs and applying formulas, even if taken metaphorically, does not illuminate our conscious mental life and our human behaviour, and sends our philosophical thinking down blind alleys.

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