Friday, March 05, 2010

An example of magical thinking / user-interface that I didn't notice before :

We are about to study the idea of a computational process. Computational processes are abstract beings that inhabit computers. As they evolve, processes manipulate other abstract things called data. The evolution of a process is directed by a pattern of rules called a program. People create programs to direct processes. In effect, we conjure the spirits of the computer with our spells.

3 comments:

Manuel J. Simoni said...

See also The Little Thoughts of Thinking Machines by none other than John McCarthy of LISP fame:

As our daily lives involve ever more sophisticated computers, we will find that ascribing little thoughts to machines will be increasingly useful in understanding how to get the most good out of them.

John Powers said...

Talking about cause and effect is really hard because our language encourages us to talk in terms of things. There's another problem in that when causation contains time, timeless logic is incomplete.

I've been thinking about social science lately and reading Tony Lawson who is a critic of orthodox economics. He's coming at the subject of economics from a critical realism perspective and talks a lot about "social ontology."

Lawson doesn't employ metaphors like: "conjure the spirits of the computer with our spells." But I'm still struck in his work by how hard it is to talk carefully about process.

I'm ignorant about computing. It's easy enough to think about computational processes as manipulations of data. But there generally are several processes ongoing at any time. So processes occur in a sort of ecology; in an ecomental system ;-) It's silly perhaps to talk about such systems as "beings" or "spirits" but pointing out the interrelated context of computational processes as some "thing" to consider doesn't seem silly to me.

Eufrasio Prates said...

That's why I love programming music with some combined randomizers... to keep the computer spirit and magic flowing.