Or is that an analogy that just doesn’t really work?
Recently, we were looking at “Another reason the human mind is not like a computer” (Vishwanathan Anand) , and someone reminded us of an older article, by Ari N. Schulman, “Why Minds Are Not Like Computers” (The New Atlantis, Winter 2009),
People who believe that the mind can be replicated on a computer tend to explain the mind in terms of a computer. When theorizing about the mind, especially to outsiders but also to one another, defenders of artificial intelligence (AI) often rely on computational concepts. They regularly describe the mind and brain as the “software and hardware” of thinking, the mind as a “pattern” and the brain as a “substrate,” senses as “inputs” and behaviors as “outputs,” neurons as “processing units” and synapses as “circuitry,” to give just a few common examples.
Those who employ this analogy tend to do so with casual presumption. They rarely justify it by reference to the actual workings of computers, and they misuse and abuse terms that have clear and established definitions in computer science—established not merely because they are well understood, but because they in fact are products of human engineering. An examination of what this usage means and whether it is correct reveals a great deal about the history and present state of artificial intelligence research. And it highlights the aspirations of some of the luminaries of AI—researchers, writers, and advocates for whom the metaphor of mind-as-machine is dogma rather than discipline.