Though Gary Marcus tells us it is, in “Face It, Your Brain Is a Computer”at the New York Times:
… Finally, there is a popular argument that human brains are capable of generating emotions, whereas computers are not. But while computers as we know them clearly lack emotions, that fact itself doesn’t mean that emotions aren’t the product of computation. On the contrary, neural systems like the amygdala that modulate emotions appear to work in roughly the same way as the rest of the brain does, which is to say that they transmit signals and integrate information, and transform inputs into outputs. As any computer scientist will tell you, that’s pretty much what computers do.
Of course, whether the brain is a computer is partly a matter of definition. The brain is obviously not a Macintosh or a PC. And we humans may not have operating systems, either. But there are many different ways of building a computer.
The real payoff in subscribing to the idea of a brain as a computer would come from using that idea to profitably guide research. In an article last fall in the journal Science, two of my colleagues (Adam Marblestone of M.I.T. and Thomas Dean of Google) and I endeavored to do just that, suggesting that a particular kind of computer, known as the field programmable gate array, might offer a preliminary starting point for thinking about how the brain works.
That computers do not generate emotions is not a “popular argument”; it is a fact.
If neurons are akin to computer hardware, and behaviors are akin to the actions that a computer performs, computation is likely to be the glue that binds the two.
There is much that we don’t know about brains. But we do know that they aren’t magical. They are just exceptionally complex arrangements of matter. Airplanes may not fly like birds, but they are subject to the same forces of lift and drag. Likewise, there is no reason to think that brains are exempt from the laws of computation. If the heart is a biological pump, and the nose is a biological filter, the brain is a biological computer, a machine for processing information in lawful, systematic ways. More.
And Frankenstein is alive and well at the North Pole too.
DuBois needs to talk to David Gelernter:
Following on a Slate computer columnist’s assessment that artificial intelligence has sputtered, Yale computer science prof David Gelernter offers some thoughts on the closing of the scientific mind. Readers will appreciate his comments on the “punks, bullies, and hangers-on” who have been attacking philosopher Thomas Nagel for doubting Darwin:
The modern “mind fields” encompass artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind. Researchers in these fields are profoundly split, and the chaos was on display in the ugliness occasioned by the publication of Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos in 2012. Nagel is an eminent philosopher and professor at NYU. In Mind & Cosmos, he shows with terse, meticulous thoroughness why mainstream thought on the workings of the mind is intellectually bankrupt. He explains why Darwinian evolution is insufficient to explain the emergence of consciousness—the capacity to feel or experience the world. He then offers his own ideas on consciousness, which are speculative, incomplete, tentative, and provocative—in the tradition of science and philosophy. More.
But he won’t.
See also: Why the human mind is hard to grasp (so to speak)
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