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FleshFactor: re: what is a machine?



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A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"
(http://www.aec.at/fleshfactor/arch/)
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Richard Brown writes:
-- A machine operates on the basis of causality, what you get out
-- is a process of what you put in - predictable, reducible to a set of
laws.

Brown's definition, above, is only one possible definition of a machine. 
I doubt it is Dennett's.  It does not even seem to be the machine of
common sense.  For instance, what is the predictable reducability of my
automobile, so frequently running rough or even breaking down at odd
times?  My mechanic cannot seem to fix it, after many trips and even a
factory free engine upgrade.  Sure there *might* be some laws behind
there, but until they are produced, well, why does Brown think so?  The
machine as "predictable and reducable" is simply a literary construct,
applicable to very few real machines. I think Dennett meant real machines,
not literary ones. 

-- Brown continues to write:
-- Godel showed that for every set of rules there would be some rule
that
-- would be unknowable and unprovable outside of that set.  Quantum
physics
-- contains many non-casual (uncertainty type) phenomena.  Chaos theory
shows
-- how so called machine like systems can become
unknowable/unpredictable. 
-- The language of mathematics extends into spaces that are almost of
the
-- imagination, yet also appear to be grounded in so called reality. 

It seems to me that by invoking the above physical and mathematical
phenomena, Brown's argument turns on and consumes itself.  Because,
well, this is almost to obvious to say, but all machines are also
made up of quanta obeying the uncertainty principle, and are consistent
with Godelian incompleteness theory, and most are complex enough to
exhibit chaos (e.g. packet traffic on the internet does).  So, is this
not an argument that machines are capable of infinite possibilities?
This is not a proof, but it is certainly not a disproof, that we
are machines.

-- Brown writes:
-- What if we are not a machine?  What if there are forces that
influence us
-- in ways we cannot comprehend?  

I invent new machines for a living, and help others do so.  Hardly ever do
I comprehend what I have built.  Frequently what I build is influenced by
forces that I do not understand (e.g. markets).  That does not mean that
these things I make with microprocessors and software are not machines. 
Again, I am missing some rhetorical thrust.  Brown's argument is again
consistent with people being machines -- and I thank him for the many good
examples of how this is so.


-mark

------------------------------------
Mark Weiser, Chief Technologist Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) 
www.ubiq.com/weiser (also drummer for Severe Tire Damage, first band on
the Internet)  www.std.org

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