Re: Emulation vs. Simulation

Date: Tue Mar 27 2001 - 00:37:11 MST

Jim Fehlinger, <>, writes:

> In George Lakoff's words
> ( )
> "Functionalism, first formulated by philosopher
> Hilary Putnam and since repudiated by him, is the theory that
> all aspects of mind can be characterized adequately without
> looking at the brain, as if the mind worked via the manipulation
> of abstract formal symbols as in a computer program designed
> independent of any particular hardware, but which happened to be
> capable of running on the brain's wetware. This computer program
> mind is not shaped by the details of the brain."

This seems to be a somewhat contradictory definition. The point is
that the manner in which you "program" a brain to run an algorithm is
by arranging the details of neural connection and tissue organization.
You can't be concerned about the algorithm without being concerned about
the structural details.

> "In the functionalist
> view, what is ultimately important for understanding psychology
> are the algorithms, not the hardware on which they are
> executed... Furthermore, the tissue organization and composition
> of the brain shouldn't concern us as long as the algorithm 'runs'
> or comes to a successful halt." (BABF p. 220).

This is like saying that we care in a computer about the program it is
running, but the contents of its memory and storage shouldn't concern us.
The problem is, it is the contents of its memory which determine what
program it runs. So if we are concerned about the program, we must
therefore be concerned about the contents of memory.

In the same way, a functionalist is very much concerned about the
details of the tissue organization of the brain, because this is what
determines what program the brain is running. However he believes that
the functional activity would equally well give rise to consciousness
even if it were instantiated in another substrate. The practical details
of arranging that instantiation would involve minute, careful study of
the tissue structure of the brain.


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