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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Kamikaze Philosophizer: An Issue I Have With Computational Theory Of Mind

The following is a blog entry I just completed for my philosophy class on the class blog, that I'm posting in here for your own amusement/my own records.  I'm struggling with computational theory of mind, mainly how to go about refuting it or at least stretching it so we can see the seams that hold it together.  Take a read at what I have struggled to articulate and let me know somehow what you think:

Computational theory of mind is a hard thing to refute; I totally agree that our brains operate on an “input/output” system, but here is where I begin to pick apart at the idea. I scribbled these brief thoughts as I listened to the discussion last class, so bear with me if this seems sparse.
Okay, you have this theory, this idea that the brain's output is stimulated by input. That seems completely logical to me; every system operates on an input/output level, more specifically on a four-part level beginning with input, then process, output, and finally feedback, and the process repeats. If you haven't noticed in this life, there are a hell of a lot of circumstances to be seen and experienced within it. There is, potentially, a finite number of these circumstances in the entire world, although it is likely impossible for us to measure/count/gauge them all…however, what if one considered time/age to be a circumstance as well? I think that, then, would make the number of these circumstances an infinite one. Say, for example, you have a subject, and you create a set of circumstances which elicits a certain response from said subject. Now, you recreate all of those circumstances, those circumstances within your control (which would strictly be environmental/situational in nature), and you get a different reaction from the subject instead? What does that, then, say for this theory? You could argue that the theory isn't disproved by what I've proposed, that if I consider time/age to be a factor then the different response could be blamed on the fact we couldn't repeat the same instant in time in addition to the environmental/situational settings. Still, though, I think it's telling of the merit of this theory, especially if one believes the brain to be of a limited capacity/capability. You're potentially looking at an entity that is having to react to infinite circumstances, and is succeeding at doing so. How is the brain doing this? Perhaps by interpreting only a few of the total circumstances present in a given scenario? I could see that. A computer playing chess is knowledgeable of all potential moves it can make, which seems to be infinite but in reality is not, and in order to make a timely move it doesn't go through every single permutation to select the one it needs, but rather searches through a more concise list of permutations given the situation it is in. What we have here in reality, however, is not limited to chess. The game of chess doesn't deal with time in the same way reality does; time in chess only serves to keep the game going, and I think that's different than the constant passage of time we face. You're not dealing with time in chess as much as you are the circumstances surrounding the piece in question: what spaces are available to move to, what sorts of pieces are around it, etc. In real life, we deal with time in a more direct fashion…
I'm finding it really hard to articulate just what it is I'm wanting to explain, but I hope I'm giving you enough to at least show you where I'm trying to get. Feel free to chime in and let me know if you think I'm thinking the wrong way on this, or if you think I might be on to something and could perhaps find the words I can't seem to at this time. Should the circumstance of time be considered as such??? I just get the feeling that this theory works as long as there are a finite number of circumstances to encounter in life; I could be wrong on that, but that's the vibe I'm getting, that one should be able to get the same, certain reaction out of a subject by adding together circumstances 1, 2, and 3 for example. I'm just confused as to what it would mean to not get the same reaction if those same three circumstances are again employed, or whether that would be theoretically possible. If it is, then I feel time is, itself, a circumstance, and as such opens the door of circumstances wide enough for there to be an infinite number of them, since time is perceived to be an infinite thing…although humanity invented minutes, seconds, and clocks to better measure/understand it. XD

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