Yesterday, talking to Sarah Baker, i was led to saying that we humans are not computers, something in which i mostly believe. But i also think that, in another sense, we are not more than computers: we are physical systems, just as computers are.
Computers are machines built (by humans) to solve counting problems. To count is boring, so we made those crutches, those machines that do this for us. It’s like when you want to build high and you make scaffoldings first, not because you need them but because they will make further work easier.
In this sense, computers are mostly simple machines. If for example you have two gears connected, one having twice the amount of teeth of the other, than this is a machine that can multiply by two. Simple.
The thing is, counting, and by extension, mathematics, despite being mostly a boring thing to do, and a simple one, where lack of attention is more dangerous than pure lack of capability, counting and maths have been taken to symbolize the epitome of human thinking. Whatever is mathematical is seen as the most “true” of truths. And thus as the most rational of thoughts.
This is foolish, i’ll try to explain why in my further post about maths. And it is also a foolishness that has a very specific and clear historic reason to have come about. But foolish nevertheless.
We humans can do maths, and we can do a whole lot of other things. Mathematicians would right now want to say that mathematics is a subset of human reasoning, but that is not right. Humans are things that act in certain ways, and computers are things that act in other ways, sometimes they are compatible, sometimes they are not, and neither is a completely mapped territory.
But this does not mean that human beings are not physical systems. We do not have some sort of “soul” or “conscience” or “transcendence” that sets us apart from monkeys or stones or atoms. We are all part of the same world.
If i lose myself into a difficult, intricate math problem, this is not because i entered a different, set apart, realm of mathematics. Losing yourself in math is just a part of experience. It is just something that you can live.
In the same sense, thinking is not different from jumping or performing any action. To think does not put us in a different plan, a different dimension. We are physical systems. Damn complex ones, for sure, bt still physical systems.
Even this idea of “physical” is already an abstraction, as we don’t exactly experience physicality directly, we just experience being alive. The division between physical and not is just an attempt at analysing life. But it does not change life itself, just our way to relate to life. In the end, we are still this basic metabolism, this organic slime, this pull — it’s foolish to try to extract more “truth” from it, more “reality” or more “god” or whathaveyou.
So, in this sense, we are likened unto computers, and understanding this should have a very subtle but very powerful effect in our way to relate to the world, to life, and to ourselves.
How exactly, do you ask? (…)