Some philosopher or scientist made an analogy of Mind versus Brain is related to Software versus Hardware. What was that about? If an A.I. computing system called P.A.L. has a self-sustaining operating system that manages and processes all its software could this be considered the Mind of the A.I. computing system P.A.L.?

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    "some philosopher or scientist" - which one? Do you have a reference? It'd be easier to know "what that was about" if we could see the analogy in context. Aug 5 '14 at 11:56
  • Also, analogies are like pieces of string: they only go so far. At first glance, I'm not really sure what this one gets us. Aug 5 '14 at 12:00
  • With regard to an A.I. system and all its interacting programs assume this system had the ability to make new programs that were not just a recombination of programs and information written by its programmers. So it has a basic 'structure' of necessary programs and the ability to make 'new' ones. IT would have to have a management system for organizing all these programs and how they interact. This management system would operate in a way similar to what we term the 'mind'. A kind of Meta-organization system.
    – user128932
    Aug 8 '14 at 7:33
  • The reference of the software versus hardware analogy was I think from Hillary Putnam (I could be wrong). The 'mind' concept could be related to the idea of a Software-management system like an operating system yet unlike a computer operating system it doesn't have to wait for instructions from the user or from stored instructions of its programmers. It is Self -controlling and self-sustaining.
    – user128932
    Aug 15 '14 at 6:58

I don't know if this is the same context as the philosopher you were reading, but that same comparison has been used often in the discussion of the Philosophy of Neuroscience, specifically as an argument for Anti-Reductionism. Reductionism is the belief that a complex phenomena, in this case the mind, can be scientifically reduced to simpler phenomena, such as neural interactions and ultimately cellular-molecular biology. The Anti-Reductionist argument you are referencing states that Reductionism is impossible in the case of the mind, because the fact that the "Software" of the mind could conceivably by created on multiple "Hardwares", organic brains like ours or silicon machines or numerous other theoretical "Mind machines". The argument goes that since the mind is multiply realizable, can be constructed with multiple methods, then clearly it can't be reduced to the interactions of one such method. In your example, P.A.L having a mind would prove that the mind cannot be reduced to neurons, because P.A.L has a mind but no neurons.

If you're interested, common counters to this argument are

  1. That the mind is not in fact multiply realizable, and anything not made of organic neurons is not a real mind.
  2. That being multiply realizable doesn't preclude reduction, because the mind could be divergent and reducible to more than one base set of laws (just like computer software).
  3. That this argument is absurd, because the implications are that any complex enough system, such as a bucket of water with billions of atoms, or a large country with billions of people interacting, could form a mind as well, which is inherently not true.
  • A super-computer with all its complicated functioning that can approximate a weather system or some such herculean feat can not be reduced to the small parts or atoms that make up the circuits ,e.t.c. So it is in a sense anti- reductionist.
    – user128932
    Aug 8 '14 at 7:38
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    Well, for any computer today at least, it really can be reduced to its smallest parts, because that's how we build them. Electrons form currents which form binary data which creates logic gates which are then used to build more complex programming and so on until it reaches the level of super computer. Yet all traceable and explainable back down to the subatomic level.
    – Cain
    Aug 9 '14 at 14:20
  • Yet isn't the meaning of the terms in a program and how all the programs interact an emergent phenomenon ; based on decisions by the programmers and not entirely on the limits imposed by the laws of physics?
    – user128932
    Aug 10 '14 at 12:19
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    I'm pretty sure the program is entirely reliant on the laws of physics. It certainly doesn't break them, and as far as I know there is nothing a program can do that couldn't be entirely described by the movement of electrons, although this description would of course be immensely complex. With a mind, by contrast, there is no clear path from neural actions to thoughts. When a computer say 1 > 2 = true, we know exactly which circuits fired in what manner to derive this logic. With a mind, nobody can point to the "1>2=true" neurons. Yet.
    – Cain
    Aug 11 '14 at 9:26
  • Maybe there are no '1>2=true' neurons , no actual physical structures that can represent '1>2=true' in the mind-brain. Maybe the '1>2=true' concept is only 'found' in the actions or dynamics of the neurons and how they interact. Given a description based on the movement of electrons could describe a program's activity although overly complex; the thing is you would need some kind of dynamic system to describe it. What about a dynamic system of interacting neurons where it is the activity that can describe a 'concept' not the physical structures alone.
    – user128932
    Aug 14 '14 at 0:43

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