The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Machines and Real Life

The very reason that people started wondering if computers could ever think is that computers are very fast and have huge memories. But do they? One could argue that the computer has no memory at all: it remembers what I want to remember. What we call “the computer’s memory” is in reality just an extension of my memory. I remember what I was doing five minutes ago and five hours ago and, if I focus, maybe I can remember what I was doing five months ago. But the computer has no “memory” of what it was doing five seconds ago. What we call “memory” in the case of a computer is something completely different from what we call “memory” in the case of animals. In a sense, the whole issue arises only because someone decided to use that word, “memory”, for that component of my computer that stores data (my data) and instructions (the application’s  instructions). If we had called it “heart” maybe today philosophers would be discussing if the computer has a heart. Ditto for speed. The computer is “fast” at something that we don’t call “fast”. We say that a chef was fast if she cooked the meal in record time: is the computer fast at cooking a meal in the kitchen? The fastest robot in the world takes forever just to extend a hand in the right direction. What we call “speed” has to do with crossing streets, planting tomatoes, dusting shelves and walking up and down the stairs. The computer is actually extremely slow at any of these. It is in fact slower than any animal that ever existed.

Again, it is just syntax: we called them “speed” and “memory” to reuse existing words but they are neither speed nor memory.


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