Topic: reality is a machine

topics > computer science > Group: artificial intelligence

relationship between brain and behavior

commitment as a system
law of nature
limitations of artificial intelligence and cognitive science
intelligent machines
natural language as a system
models of reality
Newtonian physics
people vs. computers
philosophy of mind
physics as computation
science as mathematics
thought is computational
vitalism, the soul
what is a computer
what is a number


A common, philosophical view is that reality is a machine. The mechanical view has held sway for hundreds of years. It is supported everyday through the successes of the modern world. It is similar to religious views of an underlying order, or the commonsense view that there is a reason for events.

While these views have existed from the beginning, Descarte in the early 1600s established the mechanistic view as a foundation for knowledge. He separated the mind from the body. While the mind belonged to God, the body was an understandable machine. By separating mind from body, Descartes freed science from religion. In the spiritual domain, God continued to rule, but in the physical domain, science had a free rein to understand reality.

But mind is not separate from the body. Both mind and body are deeply intertwined. If mind is not a machine, nor is reality. (cbb 6/06)

Subtopic: universe as a machine up

Quote: the universe is a gigantic computing machine; the propagation of light is like an impulse propagating through a chain of relays [»zuseK_1984]
Quote: Laplace--an intelligence could know the entire universe, past and future, given sufficient information at some instant [»layzD12_1975]
Quote: every one is agreed that God has ordered from all eternity the whole succession of the universe; the contrary would destroy the perfection of God [»leibGW_1679]
Quote: a computer can simulate the evolution of the entire Universe [»barrJD_1986]
Quote: every substance expresses the universe; its present state contains its past states and all those to come [»leibGW_1686c]
Quote: mechanism and order is essential right down to their smallest parts [»leibGW_1686c]
Quote: everything equally but in different ways mirrors the beauty of the universe
Quote: the world is a machine, each part of which an infinite number of devices
Quote: out of the infinity of possible worlds, God selected the one that pleased him; more infinite perfection
Quote: God does nothing that is not orderly; everything conforms to the universal order; even extraordinary events [»leibGW_1686b]
Quote: every organic body is a natural machine in its entirety and in its smallest parts
Quote: every monad is a living mirror; representing the universe with its own point of view; orderly
Quote: perceptions arise from the final causes of good and evil, while external phenomena arise from the efficient causes of motions [»leibGW_1714]
Quote: pre-established, perfect harmony between the final causes of monads and the efficient causes of bodies; body and soul can not change the laws of the other
Quote: every soul knows everything past and future, but confusedly; like the sound of the sea containing every wave; only God has distinct knowledge [»leibGW_1714]

Subtopic: universe as understandable up

Quote: an operation is any process which alters the mutual relation of two or more things; applies to all subjects in the universe [»menaLF10_1842, OK]

Subtopic: reality as machine up

Quote: nothing happens for which a reason cannot be given why it should happen as it does rather than otherwise [»leibGW_1679]
Quote: every individual substance contains traces of all of its history and marks of all of its future [»leibGW_1679]
Quote: no two substances are identical; each singular substances expresses the whole world in its own way, including all that happens to it [»leibGW_1686b]
Quote: everything happens in each substance in consequence of the first state which God gave to it in creating it [»leibGW_1679]
Quote: a thing that moves must have distinctive features

Subtopic: nature as understandable up

Quote: we know little; with greater knowledge we might rid ourselves of an infinity of maladies, perhaps even the enfeeblement of old age [»descR_1637]
Quote: Descartes found a road to truth and asked others to join so that we might together advance further than a single individual could alone [»descR_1637]

Subtopic: nature as a machine up

Quote: the machines of nature, i.e., living bodies, are still machines in the least of their parts ad infinitum
Quote: speculate that the machinery of physics will be revealed and it will have simple laws
Quote: all ordinary phenomena can be explained by particle motions; life is in principle understandable via physics [»feynR_1965]
Quote: a pile of atoms that are not repetitious like a crystal or liquid might well be human
Quote: the gross properties of matter should be explainable in terms of the motion of its parts
Quote: our understanding of the world is so compact and constrained that each step follows more or less inexorably from the last [»baumEB_2004]

Subtopic: nature as number up

Quote: atomic numbers allow an understanding of nature as pure numbers

Subtopic: chemistry as a machine up

Quote: sodium and potassium exist because there is a corresponding mathematical structure guaranteeing their stability [»thomR_1975]

Subtopic: biology as a machine up

Quote: perhaps we can write an equation for life; perhaps it is quantum mechanics; God may not be needed to explain the complexities of the world
Quote: can describe biology as a topology in a closed system; entirely self-referential, without an outside [»matuHR_1980]
Quote: autopoietic machine is a network of processes continuously regenerated by their interactions and transformations; topological [»matuHR_1980]
Quote: autopoietic machines--no inputs/outputs, perturbed by environment, primary goal to maintain the machine's organization [»matuHR_1980]
Quote: a living system and nervous system is homeostatic; identity from maintaining its organization [»matuHR_1980]
Quote: biological systems must exchange programmability for efficiency and adaptability; product of evolution [»conrM5_1985]
Quote: there are geometric objects in biology that prescribe the only possible forms capable of self-reproduction

Subtopic: animals as machines up

Quote: da Vinci--a bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law; man can reproduce all of its movements [»daviL_1505]
Quote: it is improbable that the lower animals are mere machines; such opinions are against the order of things [»leibGW_1679]
Quote: the body of an animal is like a machine made by God. It is incomparably better ordered, with many more parts, and far more admirable movements [»descR_1637]
Quote: a machine made in the likeness of a nonrational animal would be indistinguishable from the animal; not true for a human [»descR_1637]
Quote: there will exist an artificial, non-conscious zombanimal for the simplest biological animal; passes the Total Turing Test without restrictions [»brinS10_2000]

Subtopic: nature as physics up

Quote: fundamental physics is like the rules of the game of nature; can thus understand the world even though its application may be much too complicated [»feynRP_1963]
Quote: the general laws of theoretical physics are valid for any natural phenomenon whatsoever, including life [»einsA_1934]
Quote: the task of the physicist is to find the universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built by pure deduction

Subtopic: living machines up

Quote: all Automata (e.g., a watch) have an artificial life; what are nerves but so many strings [»hobbT_1651, OK]

Subtopic: science requires agreement up

Quote: in science, we cannot define anything precisely; we have to agree that we are talking about roughly the same thing; avoids paralysis of thought

Related Topics up

Group: relationship between brain and behavior   (9 topics, 332 quotes)

Topic: biology (26 items)
Topic: commitment as a system (22 items)
Topic: law of nature (28 items)
Topic: limitations of artificial intelligence and cognitive science (64 items)
Topic: intelligent machines (28 items)
Topic: natural language as a system (43 items)
Topic: models of reality (33 items)
Topic: Newtonian physics (79 items)
Topic: people vs. computers (55 items)
Topic: phenomenology (37 items)
Topic: philosophy of mind (78 items)
Topic: physics as computation (31 items)
Topic: reductionism (51 items)
Topic: rules (43 items)
Topic: science as mathematics (26 items)
Topic: thought is computational (60 items)
Topic: vitalism, the soul (73 items)
Topic: what is a computer (62 items)
Topic: what is a number
(55 items)

Updated barberCB 7/05
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