Implementing Machines

Yet another discusstion on the everything-list. A nice message from Stephen Paul King where he discussion what it may mean “a machine runs”:

It seems that we need a definition of the implied meaning of the word “runs”, but we only end up in a confused state much worse than the one we started in when we try to get an answer to this question!!! I can only try to explain what this word, in this context, means to me. When I say or write the word “a machine runs” there are implications of many things, including the laws of thermodynamics. I at least expect that the running of the machine is the action of of a physical system that involves the conversion of energy from a low entropy to a high entropy state. In this discussion here, we seem to ignore almost all of those ideas and concepts when we say “run the machine”.    

So what exactly are we considering???? Some kind of abstract version of a machine. OK, where is this abstract machine located? In our minds? Oh, never mind, we have discussed how abstract objects do not have a location per say and that they exist (somehow) independent of our cognition of them so the question is begged by undermining the premise that abstract object can exist or not exist at some location. Does this not imply a Cartesian duality between mental concepts and our physical brains? What causal relationship exists between them and if no causal connection exists, what explanation is there for the amazing synchronization that there appears to occur between physical activities and the mental experiences that I am having? But I digress….

We have this idea that something exists which we represent using some system of symbols following some set of rules and consider that the entity that that string of symbols represents actually exists independent of our representation of it. Does this scheme not implicitly involve a form of dualism or complementarity such that there is a categorical distinction between the strings of symbols (and their related ancillary rules, relations, definitions, etc.) and the entity that they represent? It sure seems to me that it does! Maybe I am naïve, but surely other persons can see this implied distinction between object and representation! Are we being faithful to the doctrines of Ideal monism? Hardly!

So what does this word salad so far have to do with the topic of this thread in the Everything List? Well, we are considering some ideas that seem to only apply to the representations and not to objects per say and we are taking those representations, treating them as if they are objects themselves and then subtracting or neglecting the fact that we are doing just that – treating representations of objects as if they are objects having representations themselves can have the properties that we would usually only associate with physical objects. If we follow this kind of reasoning we can expect that it is ok to represent objects as representations of representations of representations of representations of …. Is this not an impermissible form of infinite regress? What is going on here? Is there some point at which this nesting of representations stops? If so what could it be?

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