Monday, May 25, 2009

Computation != Deliberation

Travel, work, all-consuming new research ideas keep getting in the way of blogging, and slowing down reading. I'm still struggling with Out of Our Heads, which keeps switching between infuriating cluelessness about computation and intriguing insights about the lack of a clear-cut boundary at the information processing level between the “inside” and the “outside” of the brain. Alva Noë repeatedly assumes that “computation” in the mind is just a kind of rule-following conscious behavior. Following this misconception, the intuitive leaps of an expert chess player or human recognition of faces are according to him are not (plodding, deliberate, searching, rule-following) computation. There must be something really weird in the coffee at the Department of Philosophy at Berkeley that keeps some of them (Dreyfus, Searle, Noë) from recognizing that even a simple amoeba computes to maintain some awareness of and ecologically appropriate behavior towards their shifting environment. (Thank you Dennis Bray for the a propos example).

To paraphrase again their colleague Brad De Long's long-running lament: why oh why can't we have more computationally literate philosophers?

1 comment:

Michael Drake said...

There's nothing weird in their coffee; it's the something weird in their brains' computations.