Meat the computer…You!

Posted: April 7, 2007 in Theo/Philo

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Some groups of  atoms had some ideas about reductionism; here is a symbolic representation of the ideas those atoms had.

(please note: those atoms whose ideas are represented below are grouped under specific identifiers; such as Neil,Marvin,Ernest and Abraham )

Science has spectacularly used the idea of reductionism to unify, explain and dominate.Reductionism assumes that everything is ultimately explainable and can be reduced down to its constituent parts, down to the subatomic particle and beyond, if the string theorists have there way.Reductionism is a tool, an explanatory tool and as such it has limits, the best person to explain those limits, is the late great thinker and author Neil Postman.Regarding the non-neutrality of any tool Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, once said that to someone who has only a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. And Neil Postman adds that ‘to a man with a pencil, everything looks like a list. To a man with a camera, everything looks like an image. To a man with a computer, everything looks like data’Any tool we use both defines how we use it and limits the outcomes possible from its use, reductionism being no exception.Ernest Gellner:

“Reductionism, roughly speaking, is the view that everything in this world is really something else, and that the something else is always in the end unedifying (…) [Reductionism] is rooted (…) not in the nature of things, but in our ideal of explanation. Genuine explanation (…) means subsumption under a structure or schema made up of neutral, impersonal elements. In this sense, explanation is always “dehumanizing”, and inescapably so”. It offends our sense of dignity, especially when presented in the form of a “nothing – but” claim, e.g., living beings are “nothing but” collections of molecules. This example of constituent reductionism is actually rather crude for it leaves out the intricate relationships among the molecules that are needed for an entity to be alive. A stronger claim is Marvin Minsky’s assertion that human beings are “just computers made of meat.”

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