Metaphors Of The Mind



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The brain (and, by implication, the Mind) has been compared to the latest technological innovation in every generation. The computer metaphor is now in vogue. Computer hardware metaphors were replaced by software metaphors and, lately, by (neuronal) network metaphors. Such attempts to understand by comparison are common in every field of human knowledge. Architects and mathematicians have lately come up with the structural concept of “tensegrity” to explain the phenomenon of life. The tendency of humans to see patterns and structures everywhere (even where there are none) is well documented and probably has its survival value added.
Another trend is to discount these metaphors as erroneous, irrelevant, or deceptively misleading. Yet, these metaphors are generated by the same Mind that is to be described by them. The entities or processes to which the brain is compared are also “brain-children”, the results of “brain-storming”, conceived by “minds”. What is a computer, a software application, a communications network if not a (material) representation of cerebral events?
In other words, a necessary and sufficient connection must exist between ANYTHING created by humans and the minds of humans. Even a gas pump must have a “mind-correlate”. It is also conceivable that representations of the “non-human” parts of the Universe exist in our minds, whether a-priori (not deriving from experience) or a-posteriori (dependent upon experience). This “correlation”, “emulation”, “simulation”, “representation” (in short : close connection) between the “excretions”, “output”, “spin-offs”, “products” of the human mind and the human mind itself – is a key to understanding it.
This claim is an instance of a much broader category of claims: that we can learn about the artist by his art, about a creator by his creation, and generally: about the origin by any of its derivatives, inheritors, successors, products and similes.
This general contention is especially strong when the origin and the product share the same nature. If the origin is human (father) and the product is human (child) – there is an enormous amount of data to be safely and certainly derived from the product and these data will surely apply to the origin. The closer the origin and the product – the more we can learn about the origin. The computer is a “thinking machine” (however limited, simulated, recursive and mechanical). Similarly, the brain is a “thinking machine” (admittedly much more agile, versatile, non-linear, maybe even qualitatively different). Whatever the disparity between the two (and there is bound to be a large one), they must be closely related to one another. This close relatedness is by virtue of two facts: (1) They are both “thinking machines” and, much more important: (2) the latter is the product of the former. Thus, the computer metaphor is unusually strong. Should an organic computer come to be, the metaphor will strengthen. Should a quantum computer be realized – some aspects of the metaphor will, undoubtedly, be enhanced.
By the way, the converse hypothesis is not necessarily true: that by knowing the origin we can anticipate the products. There are too many free variables here. The existence of a product “collapses” our set of probabilities and increases our knowledge – to use Bohr’s metaphor.
The origin exists as a “wave function”: a series of potentialities with attached probabilities, the potentials being the logically and physically possible products.
But what can be learned about the origin by a crude comparison to the product? Mostly traits and attributes related to structure and to function. These are easily observable. Is this sufficient? Can we learn anything about the “true nature” of the origin? The answer is negative. It is negative in general: we can not aspire or hope to know anything about the “true nature” of anything. This is the realm of metaphysics, not of physics. Quantum Mechanics provides an astonishingly accurate description of micro-processes and of the Universe without saying anything meaningful about both. Modern physics strives to predict rightly – rather to expound upon this or that worldview. It describes – it does not explain. Where interpretations are offered (e.g., the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics) they run into insurmountable obstacles and philosophical snags. Thus, modern science is

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