Organic Computing


Organic Computing

What do you think?


There are so many different ways in which this (either field, or this thread) could grow. Knowledge is nothing to be feared, per se. How it is applied, now that can have “interesting” ramifications.

It’s always fun to follow these developments… many times they lead to some suprisingly unobvious and beneficial spinoffs. Sometimes they lead to dead ends, and end up relegated to the trash heap. Sometimes they take a really dark turn.


I think there are many folks trying very hard to find thesis ideas. :roll_eyes: :wink:

Even so, I’m not sure that it stands on a good metaphysical foundation. Hardcore materialists want to say that the only thing that exists is the physical. The implication is that the ‘mind’ (or ‘soul’) is merely a construct of the physical brain. Therefore, the brain must be some kind of computer, and all we have to do is reverse-engineer it.

So, the foundation would seem to require us to say something like, “if the brain is really just a computer, then we can re-create other organic systems that compute in a way similar to the way it computes.”

The problem here is that, the way this guy states it, there’s the presumption that the brain is a computer (in other words, the presumption is the materialist perspective). So, they might create an organic computer, but that doesn’t mean that they’d re-create a brain. And, it even further doesn’t mean that it would create a state that we might describe as ‘consciousness’ or ‘mind’ or ‘soul’.

Let’s look at it another way: they could create a computer – that is, something that we’d recognize as a computer if it were built from electronic components – and implant that into some other living being… but that would then only become an embedded computer. We have that right now, with pacemakers, etc!

And, to the ‘DNA data’ thing: yes, it’s a common perspective for computer scientists to view everything as storage media! (All you have to do, in order to store data in it, is come up with a scheme for interpreting (i.e., ‘decoding’) the data, and a means for actually setting the media to various states that can be retained.) So, there’s nothing really exciting about this DNA notion … other than the fact that, by storing data there, you’re “overwriting” what was at that DNA. Sure hope that they’re right that there’s lots of “unused” DNA, rather than merely “not presently understood” DNA! I’d hate to see a person whose DNA computer “overwrites” their genetic information! (On the other hand, maybe they’re just talking about harvesting DNA from an organism, and using it as they wish?)


That’s an interesting way of looking at it.

Re pacemaker. I was thinking the same thing listening to the video. However, a “wet” pacemaker, or even artificial heart, even viewed strictly from a computer science or electrical viewpoint might be a great advancement to medical science.

Re overwriting DNA. Yeah, I would have the same kind of concerns. Oops, my “navigation computer” just got overwritten. :slight_smile:


But couldn’t the brain operate like a computer without the soul? After-all, a rats brain operates like a computer (computates external information from the senses) and doesn’t have a human soul.


The question should be approached from a different angle, in a much more generic format.

We have a “black box”, with an input-output system. It does not have to be an information processing device (even though in this example it is). The question is: "what is the relevance of the internal workings / building material of the “black box” as long as it performs according to the specifications?

Example: a “rope” can be made of different materials, metallic or organic - maybe a long strand of hair, or spider web (much stronger than steel). The important part: as long as it “works”, it does not matter what material it is made of.

You are more than welcome to show the existence of some non-physical, yet physically active “substance”, which can be influenced by the material world and which can effect the material reality. Use whatever method you wish.

Some people believe in the existence of the “paranormal”, like ESP or telekinesis, etc… Each and every one of them is debunked as nonsense. Of course that does not “prove” the nonexistence of some paranormal “thing”, it just makes the hypothesis of it useless and unnecessary.

It would be a great breakthrough to have a definition of a “soul”, and a device to show the existence of this nebulous substance.


Ahh… you’re a card-carrying materialist, then? Good!

First of all, you’re thinking incorrectly about ‘soul’. It’s not ‘nebulous’ (after all, that would make it physical… and it’s not).

Prove the existence of a non-physical entity using physical, empirical means? Pass – you can keep your stacked deck, thank you very much. :wink:


As a person who is presently eating lunch, I am traumatized by that picture without a trigger warning.



There is no “organization” which would issue a “card” to its members. But, yes, I am a materialist.

Well, the floor is yours. What is this soul “made” of? And how do you know that it exists? Maybe this should be discussed in a separate thread. For the time being all I assert that the building material is irrelevant as long as the “gadget” performs as intended.

I said: “use ANY method you wish”. But you are wrong. Just because something is “physical”, that does not mean that it can be discovered by physical, empirical means. Two examples: “everything inside of a black hole” and “everything outside the light cone”. And these cannot be detected, because there is no interaction between our physical reality and these phenomena.

On the other hand, everything that is in two-way interaction between “it” and the physical reality can be detected via physical, empirical means - at least in principle. So to ask for a substantiation is reasonable. It is called the interface problem.


The first idea in the video, using pre-existing organic components, has been around since the late '60s at least.


It’s not “made of” anything, since it is not material.

That’s a good question, and it’s one that’s been discussed by philosophers and theologians for ages.

However, if you believe that the only things that exist are physical things, then in your worldview, it is unable to exist.

Close, but no cigar. That’s pretty much the inverse of the situation here. However, it does help us get closer to the point that it’s not the case that there must be a physical means to prove its existence.

I’m not talking about something physical that can (potentially) be measured empirically; the soul is something immaterial – spiritual, as it were – and therefore, cannot be measured empirically. That’s why a request to measure it is not a request in good faith.

At least in principle.

However, there’s an easy dodge for anyone on your side to make. I’m glad you brought up black holes, because it will help demonstrate the dodge. When we look at a black hole, and cannot find a way to measure empirically the ‘stuff’ inside it, we nevertheless turn back to our physics models and predictions and show that our models predicted the behavior observed (or, not observed, as it were). So, when we have nothing to measure, we nevertheless say “we expected that to happen.”

However, in the case of souls, we don’t have a physical model that can be used to predict behavior. Therefore, when we get something, and assert that it’s been caused by the ‘soul’, a materialist shrugs and concludes that it’s no more likely that a ‘soul’ caused it than any other arbitrary thing. He then concludes that believers and their ‘souls’ are like paranormal investigators and their measurements – “nonsense”, as you put it, a few posts up.

It’s a nice dodge. Effective, too, if you don’t catch the game being played. So… thanks but no thanks; I’ll pass on your slight-of-hand exercise. :wink:

Still unreasonable. It’s essentially a double-blind experiment… but no one has the ability to remove the mask and analyze the data. :man_shrugging:

So, yet again: no empirical means will demonstrate what you’re asking them to demonstrate.


Indeed. And during those millennia they were unable to formulate even a definition. Which tells me that it is akin to ponder “how many angels can dance on the tip of a needle”? Or maybe: “what exists on the reverse side of the Mobius strip”? Any inquiry must start with a properly formulated definition.

We have a MAJOR misunderstanding here. I did not say (nor will ever say) that only material objects exist, where material object means something that is composed of particles/waves (which are the same). There are many things that exist, and they are not composed of particles. Example: “all the ideas, concepts, theories, even attributes or relationships of physical objects”. (The distance between two objects is not composed of particles, yet it can be measured.) However the immaterial aspect of the physical existence is “inert”, it does not have an interaction with the physical objects - at least to our current understanding. Your problem is to demonstrate the “existence” of a non-physical yet physically active “something”.

My view is not set in stone. It is dependent on our currently established knowledge, which is always provisional, and subject to revision as new evidence is presented. As I said: “the ball is in your court”.

That is sufficient - and thus we passed a major, MAJOR hurdle. I recall a cute story about Churchill:

If it is theoretically (or in principle) possible to demonstrate the existence of non-physical, yet physically active entities, then the only question remaining is “how”? Therefore the original question is correct. We are now talking about the “price”, or the details. Or could do it, if you had anything to say.

Now you backpedal and say that physically active, yet non-physical objects cannot be detected even in principle. This self-contradiction is the perfect point to stop this conversation.

And return to the original question of this thread: “does the building material matter, if the object’s behavior is the same”?


Yeah, and for the same millennia, scientific inquirers weren’t able to answer the kinds of questions we answer today. “Not finding the answers in a given period of time” doesn’t imply “the answers can’t be found.” You should know that. :wink:

Fair enough. Yet, would you say that “the idea of a unicorn” has existence? How would you describe that existence? How would you prove its existence? How would you measure its existence? (My intuition is that you would ultimately ground its existence in something physical, and therefore, you would conclude that all existence has physical grounds.)

Really? So, “ideas, concepts, theories” do not interact with physical objects like people?

OK, so, on the face of it, that sounds supremely reasonable. Yet, you’re talking about the existence of non-physical things. What is your method of proof? “Present new [empirical] evidence.” That’s a non-starter. That’s why “my view is not set in stone” is not as reasonable as you’d like to assert it is.

No we haven’t. We’ve just established that I can sarcastically parrot your statements. Don’t worry… you haven’t established what kind of woman I am, or what my price is. :rofl:

Are souls “physically active entities”, though? That’s a standard I’m not sure we’d agree on.

You’re the only one who’s talking about “physically active” objects. That requires definition.

And, to tell the truth, it’s not about “in principle” – my discussion was about practical expectations.

You’ve asserted something I didn’t. Then, you asserted a ‘self-contradiction’, and posited that it’s sufficient to stop debating. Awful convenient when you’re having a discussion with yourself, ain’t it? :wink:


Lets get this thread back on track, because i think we can have this discussion without considering whether or not what Christians call a soul is immaterial.

I think the bottom line is, the mind and the brain are intimately linked insomuch as the fact that we think with the brain. Insofar as that is true i think it would be correct to say that the brain is a thought-processor, or at the very least it sufficiently behaves like one. In this case there surely is ethical problems and questions involved in creating a brain for the means of computing, because the existence of a brain implies the possibility of a thinking person, not just a computational device…

What do you think?


The human soul can be described as the cause of intelligently directed information. The source of that information and it’s nature is what you are debating. While we can measure the information as a physical effect and we can see that this activity is happening in the brain, it is a non-scientific belief that the cause of that information is identical in nature with the brain. That is a philosophical position which may or may not be correct. Equally it is true that we cannot determine with the scientific method that the cause is immaterial. The only evidence there is is that there is a cause. So Gorgias is correct.

In other-words, while it may seem commonsense to you to define an intelligent-cause as a natural-process, this is ultimately a shallow inference based upon a bias towards a materialistic interpretation of existence, because one completely ignores the question of whether or not the inference is intelligible to begin with. It’s a circular argument assumed to be correct according to that bias and is not a true inference, scientific or otherwise. If it makes no logical sense to define something as physical then your bias is irrelevant and using your commitment to the scientific method as a justification for materialism is equally unjustified…

You are just begging the question.


Just like any other abstraction or concept. Something that some philosophers call “abstract objects”, which is a very unfortunate choice of words (like irrational numbers) but have to use it. You seem to have a problem with separating the “concept” (unicorn) from their “referent” (a mythological animal) and the “encoding” of the concept (words or neural states).

Some abstractions or concepts have actual, physical referents (tree), others do not (justice, beauty, distance). The physical referent of the concept of a tree can interact with other physical objects (a toppled tree can crush a car), the concept of a tree cannot. The physical referent of an “oxygen atom” and the referents of two “hydrogen atoms” can combine (under proper conditions) and form a “water molecule”. The concepts cannot. 2H + O does not create even one molecule of water.

Really! Just like the concept of water does not quench your thirst. The idea of “air” does not fill up a scuba tank to allow survival underwater. The theory of gravity does not make an apple fall. Their “referents” are the ones which

Sure I do. See right above. Non-physical existence or abstractions.

The problem occurs when you (or anyone else) wishes to talk about some actual hypothetical beings (entities), which are not physical, and yet can interact with the physical environment. Like a “guardian angel” can protect someone from a disaster. Like a “demon” can “occupy” a pig, or cause mental disorder, and can be exorcised via some physical activity. (I wish I had invented these examples, but I did not. While I was given a short suspension, I spent some time browsing the forum, and found these excellent examples.) The “activities” of the guardian angels are unknown, but the demons are well “documented”.

Add to that the “paranormal” assertions (telekinesis, etc.), and even the “new age” ideas (the curative powers of pyramid shapes). All of those try to postulate the existence of non-physical, yet physically active “powers”. Not to forget about “poltergeists”, that are supposed to “bump” in the night. If the stories about any of these entities would be true, then non-physical beings could be detected through their actions.


Do you really have a problem with comprehending what “physically active” means?

If there is no theoretical way to measure something, it is futile to try to speak of practical methods.

I will summarize the problem. You assert that it is irrational (on my part) to expect an empirical substantiation of non-physical entities. If those non-physical entities do not interact with the physical reality, then you would be correct. But as soon as there is an interaction, the alleged non-physical entity can be discovered - at least in principle. That is why I asked (and will repeat) the question: “is it possible to detect the existence of a non-physical entity which (allegedly) interacts with the physical reality”? A simple “yes” or “no” answer will be sufficient. If the answer is “yes”, then we can continue to examine the “how”? If the answer is “no”, then a different continuation can follow.


Sure. Just like the “legs” and “walking”.

No problem, even though I would prefer the term: “information processor”. After all an overwhelming majority of the neural activities happens in the subconscious, like regulating heartbeat, or taking a breath, or … whatever. Very little happens in the “grey cells” as Poirot used to say, even though those are very important.

How do you attempt to separate the conscious and the subconscious brain activities and “map” them on a “thinking” person? Just an example: “it happened several times that I was driving home on the interstate after work. When I got home I realized that the whole time I was on ‘auto-pilot’. Not once did I make a conscious decision.”

But the point is simple. Whether some information processing happens in a “hardware” or in a “wetware” is irrelevant. The medium in unimportant, the process is what counts.


No… since you’re a materialist, though, I’m curious what the physical component of an idea’s existence is. Unless, of course, you want to say that ideas don’t have physical components, which is ok with me. (Note that I’m not conflating ‘referents’ and ‘encodings’ here – I’m not asking “what’s the physical referent of an idea?” or “what’s the physical encoding of an idea?”)

Do “ideas, concepts, theories” interact with your brain?

OK… so, maybe I’m misunderstanding what it means to be a ‘materialist’. I was under the impression that (speaking somewhat loosely), it meant that the belief is that the only things that exist are physical – that is, that there are no things which are not physical which can be said to exist.

So, how would you determine if your favorite pig were possessed? Is there any method you might suggest that might tell us the answer?

No… I’m just trying to move you to commit to a definition. :wink:

Again, ‘in principle’. Yet, getting from ‘principle’ to ‘practice’ is the problem. How do you suggest we predict when a non-physical entity will interact with a physical entity, such that we’d be able to measure it when it does? Is there a SETI-esque experiment that we might propose? That’s where I’m finding your request unreasonable.

Theoretically, yes, it can be seen as possible. The ‘how’ is the difficult part. What do you propose?


And yet you are a thinking person since you acknowledge the event in retrospect.

The medium is important since the existence of a human brain implies the possibility of a thinking person. How do you propose to separate the two in-order to justify using it as an external tool?

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