21.411 capacious memories & sufficient organizing ability

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 08:24:55 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 411.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 08:05:26 +0000
         From: "Joris van Zundert" <joris.van.zundert_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 21.408 capacious memories & sufficient organizing ability

Isn't there a hard- and software watershed in here somewhere? Current
computers are based on the principle of the transistor used as a
switching device, which can represent two states translating to 1 or
0, the famous bit. The transistor can be told to switch to either
state by putting a low current through it. The physics part of that
one is -as far as I can tell- very much understood, even at the level
of the atomic. Going sub-atomic, if I remember correctly quantum
computing would (apart from huge performance gains in certain
operations) add a third fundamental state representing both 1 and 0.
Such a principle, that would be able to register all possible states
of a (combination) of bits, would of course open up all kind of
interesting possibilities yet unknown. Unfortunately, as of yet
practical quantum computing is pretty much in the realms of
controlled nuclear fusion, sure it might be around at some point.

But what you mean by 'mirroring' I understood to be the possibility
of *software* to mirror human thought processes or cognition. I very
much liked Willard's remarks on modeling touching on this (21.401
regularities in law-less practices). In software modelling for sure
there are vast, yet undiscovered potentials for modelling and
mirroring human thought and behavior. But that has nothing to do, I
guess, with the particulars of the hardware carrying the code or
software that's doing the modelling. It rather seems to me that
computation hardware mirrors physical laws, whereas the software it
may represent in any state might mirror human cognition.

Joris van Zundert

On Dec 11, 2007 7:58 AM, Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard
willard_at_lists.village.virginia.edu> wrote:
                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 408.
        Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                      Submit to:

          Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2007 06:55:26 +0000
          From: Ryan Deschamps
          organizing ability

After reading Ian Beardley's _Decoding the Universe_ I am of the mind
that this property of knowing answers without understanding them is
one not unique to computers, although quantum physics and the
computer are very closely connected via information theory.

We do not understand why atomic particles behave as they do (see

), but we are able
to do pretty amazing computations because they behave in predictable
patterns, however strange or unintuitive.

There is a strong epistemological question here, however. Computers
seem to offer a choice to humans about the way they will understand
time and space; quantum information doesn't give us a choice -- it
behaves how it behaves and that's it. But we are in an era where
people are looking for the existence of quantum computers. Have we
assumed wrongly that the computer mirrors human thought when in fact
it may mirror something more fundamental (ie. quantum
motion/behavior)? Perhaps we do not have a choice at all?

Ryan. . .

Mr. Joris J. van Zundert (MA)
Huygens Institute
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
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Received on Wed Dec 12 2007 - 03:54:07 EST

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