[p2p-research] is the mind a computer

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Mon Nov 9 02:34:24 CET 2009

Samuel Rose wrote:
>> This game of Humpty Dumpty is not the path to productivity.
> I agree. I definitely will not waste time arguing with you too much.
> There is no machine that is as connected on the scale of gene,
> organism, environment as any living thing is. machines do not even
> compare.
> Here's the reality:
> Living things are complex adaptive systems (on all scales)
> machines are machines.
> An mite is more human, than any existing (or previously existing)
> human created machine is. Can you guess why?

While I agree in general with what you are saying, part of this impass is 

You are saying a machine like an 1920s Model T automobile can't do all the 
things people or even amoeba can, and you are right (it can't 
self-replication, it can't respond much to it's environment, it can't 
collaborate, and so on).

Andrew is defining machine as, what I might term, collection of matter that 
does stuff according to the laws of physics (and I'd add, thus physical 
computation, where electron movements are part of physics). So, in that 
sense, amoeba, trees, dogs, and people are all "machines".

So, can a machine think? In that sense, yes, because people are machines in 
those terms, and they think (or at least, we think they think. :-)

Similarly, Andrew is defining computer as a collection of matter that does 
stuff (again according to physical law). And really, by extension, any 
machine is really a form of computer. Even a rock computes the law of 
gravity in a sense. So, is the mind a computer? Well, sure, if a human is a 
machine, and machines are all comptuters, then yes, the mind is a computer.

I don't say this to make fun of Andrew's point. I actually agree with the 
above in that sense, because I have a computational view of our reality. (Of 
course, that may be an occupational hazard of being a computer programmer. :-)

But on the other side issue you raised of personal attacks and so on, I 
agree that Andrew's style here is not winning many friends. :-( Which is 
sad, because he obviously knows a lot and has a lot of interesting stuff to 
say. Still, he might say it more effectively if his generalizations, 
including about this list, were not so sweeping.

Example, where he wrote:
All of which betrays deep-seated intolerance for anyone that doesn't
subscribe to your groupthink even if those people have an interest in
building a true P2P society and economy.  If you want P2P economics to
be anything but a fringe cult, you'll have to give up on the idea that
everyone trying to produce this result will mindlessly parrot your
particular beliefs. Doubly so when some of those beliefs have a
distinct anti-scientific patina.

Given that Wikipedia, Debian GNU/Linux, Apache, and many other projects 
represent P2P peer production efforts and are having a significant effect on 
our economics and society, his statement seems very broad and unsupported by 
the facts.

Our society is even to the point where business people are now saying this:
   "R.I.P., open-source evangelism"
"We have reached a critical inflection point for open source. With everyone 
from Qualcomm to UBS to Microsoft embracing open source in one shape or 
another, the question is no longer "why" to use open source, but rather 
"how." Because of this changing mindset around open-source adoption, we no 
longer need evangelists encouraging open-source adoption. Adoption is a 
given. It's the default. No, what we need now are those that can illustrate 
how to derive the most benefit from the inevitable adoption of open source."

Anyway, I still think Andrew has many good points he's made, and we have 
benefited from interacting with him, even given his style. I actually don't 
see anything "personal" in Andrew's comments in the sense that even when he 
says I "apparently have no idea what a computational model is?", I read that 
more as an argumentative style, not something personal. :-)

Now, if Andrew were to have said the GPL-d Garden Simulator we wrote (a 
computational model of water and soil dynamics, plant growth, and weather)
was "garbage", I might take that personally. :-)

But, frankly, even then, I'd have to admit it could be much improved in all 
sorts of ways. :-) And maybe I'd even put my hand out for some of that 
concentrated money to do it with. :-)

But, on the other hand, everybody has their limits; still I hope I'd be a 
little less excitable than Scotty in this infamous bar fight: :-)
   "Star Trek: Trouble with Tribbles - Bar Fight"

(Spoiler to that scene)
The aftermath:
Scotty: Well, captain, er, the Klingons called you a tin plated over bearing 
swaggering dictator with delusions of godhood.
Capt. Kirk: Is that all?
Scotty: No sir, they also compared you with a Denebian slime devil.
Capt. Kirk: I see.
Scotty: And then they said you were...
Capt. Kirk: I get the picture, Scotty.
Scotty: Yes, sir.
Capt. Kirk: And after they said all this, that's when you hit the Klingons.
Scotty: No, sir.
Capt. Kirk: No?
Scotty: No, er, I didn't. You told us to avoid trouble.
Capt. Kirk: Oh, yes.
Scotty: Well, I didn't see it was worth fighting about. After all, we're big 
enough to take a few insults, aren't we?
Capt. Kirk: What was it they said that started the fight?
Scotty: They called the Enterprise a garbage scow. Sir.
Capt. Kirk: I see. And *that's* when you hit the Klingon?
Scotty: Yes, sir.
Capt. Kirk: You hit the Klingons because they insulted the Enterprise, not 
because they...
Scotty: Well, sir, this was a matter of pride!
Capt. Kirk: All right, Scotty dismissed. Oh, Scotty, you're restricted to 
quarters until further notice.
Scotty: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. That'll give me a chance to catch up on my 
technical journals.


This is not meant to single anyone out. :-) Except maybe me. :-) I'm not 
calling anyone a Klingon. :-) It's just a funny scene. :-)

Anyway, hopefully we can all move past this raise-the-bar fight. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

More information about the p2presearch mailing list