X-Message-Number: 21672
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 09:32:21 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: CryoNet #21385 - #21392

This is a reply to Bob Ettinger's message 21390, put on Cryonet
some time ago:

You point out that human beings also work with symbols. The point
of what I was saying is not that we CAN work with symbols, but
that we are not required to do so. Just like many animals without
any language (or only a primitive one) we can directly respond
to the world. A computer is required to work symbolically. 

As for the ability of computers hooked up to other machinery to
act on the world, that too is possible --- so can a hammer, or
a clock. However when computers act on the world, they must
first pass their actions through the program they are running,
which essentially is symbolic. That has turned out to be a basic
problem in getting computers to act EFFECTIVELY  on the world:
too much time between their input and their output. Simpl
sets of connected computers have turned out to be much more
effective, because they are reacting more directly. And this 
passage through a program is NOT what happens when either we
or animals respond to the world. We do not receive a stimulus,
then think about how it is to be interpreted, decide that it
is a painful stimulus, and react by saying "ow!" and (after
working out what part of our body has received it) remove
that part from the stimulus. The connection between stimulus
reaction is much more direct. Pleasant stimuli have similar
direct effects.

Even if we made the computer connection faster, that would not
remove the essential point that the computer is reacting 
symbolically to the world, while the world is not a symbolic
entity --- and because of that no set of symbolic language
can fully tell its important features.

Mike Perry had comments to me in this issue of Cryonet, too,
though I've dealt with many of them in earlier issues. I do
have one addition, though:

You claim that the world is fundamentally symbolic. What are
your reasons for this claim? Please don't cite some philosopher:
give your own reasons. In what way is the warmth of a fire
symbolic? Or the beauty of a sunset, or the horror of a car

            Best wishes and long long life,

                 Thomas Donaldson

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