[p2p-research] is the mind a computer

Samuel Rose samuel.rose at gmail.com
Thu Nov 12 16:54:59 CET 2009

On Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 7:24 PM, Ryan Lanham <rlanham1963 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Of course both of these arguments are equally specious because they do not
> make argument at all.  They simply define terminology in a way that is
> tautological.
> For an argument to exist, some fact must be contested that can be tested and
> validated.  I cannot validate someone else's arbitrary definition whether it
> be brain, innovation or abundance.  One has to make a systematic set of
> assertions about the meaning content of a term.

Currently, I am just trying to compare what Eugen is defining as a
"machine", to a concept that has a set of systemic assertions already
("complex adaptive system").

Let's use John Holland's definition of complex adaptive system here:

"A Complex Adaptive System (CAS) is a dynamic network of many agents
(which may represent cells, species, individuals, firms, nations)
acting in parallel, constantly acting and reacting to what the other
agents are doing. The control of a CAS tends to be highly dispersed
and decentralized. If there is to be any coherent behavior in the
system, it has to arise from competition and cooperation among the
agents themselves. The overall behavior of the system is the result of
a huge number of decisions made every moment by many individual
agents. (Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and
chaos." Harmondsworth [Eng.]: Penguin. 1994. ISBN 0-14-017968-2 )

Again my argument is that a human being (including mind, body etc) is
accurately described as a "complex adaptive system". My argument is
ALSO that a human being is NOT accurately described as a "machine",
since all definitions of a "machine" (abstract concept, or otherwise)
do not describe accurately the nature of humans, which I argue is at
least more accurately described by way of the label "complex adaptive

We can get to the arguments once we have even defined what Eugen is
calling a "machine". It's not enough that Andrew and Eugen play the
game of telling us we could just google what they are talking about. I
agree with Ryan Lanham here, that if we want to have a meaningful
discussion, tell us what you mean by "machine". Something useful may
actually come of the discussion, if you are willing to dissect the
language, and why you disagree with me, why I disagree with you, etc.

> If I say a brain is not a machine or a machine is a brain, I have said
> nothing.  What I need to do is to assert that a brain works in such and such
> a fashion that is not possible for what is reasonably classified as a
> machine.  Or, conversely, a machine is a brain because a machine can fulfill
> all those functions feasible, in principle, by a brain.

I have already asserted that a brain/mind system is *more than a
machine*. "More than" is the important part of my assertion here. If
Eugen and Andrew want to further argue why the brain is not more than
a "machine" I am willing to read and understand their arguments. I
think that I've made a clear argument already. For any available
definition of what a "machine" is, the brain proves to be more than
those definitions.

Complex systems theory contains testable assumptions about machines
and living things. Complex systems theory defines machines (even
abstract concept of machines) as "complicated" NOT "complex:



"What is complex and how does it differ from the merely complicated?

The most elaborate mechanical watches are called très compliqué. They
are, as their French name implies, complicated. A Star Caliber Patek
Phillipe has 103 pieces. A Boeing 747-400 has, excluding fasteners,
3x106 parts. In complicated systems parts have to work in unison to
accomplish a function. One key defect (in one of the many critical
parts) brings the entire system to a halt. This is why redundancy is
built into designs when system failure is not an option (e.g. a
nuclear submarine).

The stock market, a termite colony, cities, or the human brain, are
complex. The number of parts, e.g. the number of termites in a colony,
is not the critical issue. The key characteristic is adaptability. The
systems respond to external conditions. A food source is obstructed
and an ant colony finds a way to go around the object; a few species
become extinct and ecosystems manage to adapt.

The boundary between simple and "complex" is subtle. It takes little
for a simple system to become anything but simple. A forced pendulum -
with gravity being a periodic function of time - is chaotic. In fact
one can argue that the driven pendulum contains everything that one
needs to know about chaos; the entire dynamical systems textbook by
Baker and Gollub (1990) is built around this theme. A double pendulum
- a pendulum hanging from another pendulum - is also chaotic. And it
does not take much to make billiards chaotic. The trajectories of a
hard sphere in circle are regular but in a stadium - a rectangle with
two opposing sides being semicircles - are chaotic."

Important points to remember about what I am saying here

1. The abstract concept of "machine" that Eugen is pushing (insofar as
I can understand it) has a NATURE that is different from those systems
that *contains* Gene/Organsm/Environment

2. argument 1 above IS testable NOW (provided that you have a
definition of what "machine" is. I am using the common definition of
the abstract concept [not the colloquial "machne"] )

3. This is the argument  I have been making the entire time (although
I see Ryan's point that if we are just throwing around terms, and will
not go to the trouble of precisely defining them we might as well just
shut up)

So, I have precisely defined what I am talking about here.  I think
it's the responsibility of Eugen and Andrew to precisely define and
source if necessary what they are referring to as "machine""
otherwise, indeed this discussion is a waste of time.

Sam Rose
Social Synergy
Tel:+1(517) 639-1552
Cel: +1-(517)-974-6451
skype: samuelrose
email: samuel.rose at gmail.com

"The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human
ambition." - Carl Sagan

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