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In every age, philosophers have compared the human mind to the latest technological gizmo. Currently we use computers as models of our minds. Seventy-five years ago, our minds were compared to telephone switchboards. In the 19th Century minds were compared to telegraph machines. In the 17th Century minds were compared to hydraulic machines. This pattern goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks, who compared the mind to a catapult, because the mind “throws you” from one idea to the next. In another couple of centuries, the idea that the mind is comparable to a computer will seem as quaint as the idea that the mind is comparable to a catapult.

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    Try to identify the conclusion and they go back to search for the premsies. Apr 22, 2018 at 17:58
  • Yes if this is an argument, as it seems, I'm trying to identify the conclusion. The only thing is I'm having trouble deciding is if the conclusion would be "In another couple of centuries, the idea that the mind is comparable to a computer will seem as quaint as the idea that mind is comparable to a catapult." or "In every age, philosophers have compared the human mind to the latest technological gizmo."
    – Peachy
    Apr 22, 2018 at 18:00
  • There are some "facts" : "Currently we use computers ...", "Seventy-five years ago..." They are used to support (not to prove) the generalization : "In every age, philosophers have compared the human mind to the latest technological gizmo." Then there is some hidden steps : "In another couple of centuries some new invention will supplant computers as the latest tech gizmo." Apr 22, 2018 at 18:04
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    Is this an argument ? It is debatable... Apr 22, 2018 at 18:06
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    I would say it is an argument. An inductive argument to be sure: Given that several times in the past we have compared the mind to the latest gizmo at that time, only to be shown wrong at some later time, we conclude that the same thing will happen to the latest comparison (which is with a computer). As premises, you can take each of the past comparisons (telephone, telegraph, hydraulic machines, catapult), and you can have them either directly go to the conclusion (computer analogy will be wrong too), or have an intermediate: mind will always (mistakenly) be compared to latest gizmo
    – Bram28
    Apr 22, 2018 at 19:28

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I would say it is an argument. The claim that the computer analogy will turn out to be quint is a controversial claim, an the author is trying to garner support for it by pointing to past analogies, saying that what they all have in common is the comparison to whatever the latest gizmo is.

The argument is thus an inductive argument: Given that several times in the past we have compared the mind to the latest gizmo at that time, only to be shown wrong at some later time, we conclude that the same thing will happen to the latest comparison (which is with a computer).

As premises, you can take each of the past comparisons (telephone, telegraph, hydraulic machines, catapult), and you can have them either directly go to the conclusion (computer analogy will be wrong too), or have an intermediate result: "the mind will always (mistakenly) be compared to latest gizmo", and then draw the conclusion (computer analogy will be wrong too) from there

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I would say it's not an argument but an observation, on the history of thought, and one skewed by the demands of storytelling, such as to risk being retrospectively fitted into an account.

The spindle of the fates, represents the highest level technology widely found in very ancient Greece. But Ada Lovelace also was the first to understand computer programmes, based on weaving machine templates.

David Graeber made the case that the 'single substance' views of the presocratics was psychologically linked to the emergence of coinage. But it was also a precursor to the materialist view of energy, and a naturalistic view of the cosmos.

Our leading ideas about the nature of the universe are of course going to be shaped by our highest technology: a clockwork universe, a heat-engine body, or modern digital physics. But we don't abandon genuine insights from these, we compound them. We do still think of the brain as an information-engine, that is with information as part of the working-fluid. The heliocentric cosmos is vastly simpler to model as a mechanism to make with clockwork than the Ptolomeic model, which at least initially made more accurate predictions. I look at the universal constructor theory and see exactly this process again, a common framework able to combine ideas about how evolution is able produce progressively more 'intelligent' designs, logic & topology, and a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics such as to be able to write better quantum algorithms. We continually find ways to bring previously isolated domains together, with common terms or frameworks, or a way to translate between disciplines & interface between them.

I was thinking as a modern example of this: the blockchain seems like a good analogy for intersubjective composition of history's ledger/'truth' - it's a model that's right there, ready, and in the cultural milieu. Easy to propose, people will know what it is or be able to look it up. But imagine trying to pitch it 20 years ago!

A fairly new model I like is peer-to-peer reality, which again uses a now familiar model, to help understand how we can shed the idea of a fully objective reality that surely has to be seen as a hangover of monotheism (the 'mind of god' perspective).

Saying 'like a computer' isn't saying one thing. As computers have improved at all kinds of tasks, our insights have too. That's not going away, only deepening.

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