[lit-ideas] Re: view of names, or in ginocchio da te

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 03 Sep 2013 19:38:48 -0700

Omar wrote

I can't help wondering again why Searle or Popper or someone writing in
the the 1950s when PC was science fiction and a washing machine was a
rare commodity would be considered an authority on the subject of
machines thinking.

My mother got her hand caught in the wringer of an electric washing machine in 1931 (the year I was born) in my grandmother's house in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota. Unless you think that the rest of the mechanism was somehow hand-cranked, this would seem to count as an electric washing machine.

From Wikipedia

'By 1940, 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States had an electric washing machine. Many of these machines featured a power wringer, although built-in spin dryers were not uncommon.

'Bendix Corporation introduced the first automatic washing machine in 1937...having applied for a patent in the same year. In appearance and mechanical detail, this first machine is not unlike the front loading automatic washers produced today. Although it included many of the today's basic features, the machine lacked any drum suspension and therefore had to be anchored to the floor to prevent "walking".'

There were certainly computers by 1980, when Searle proposed his 'Chinese Room' thought experiment. Apple began to sell its first Macintosh desktops in 1984, or earlier; Microsoft's PC were on the market shortly before that. But it isn't the PC you should have in mind when it comes to computing power: the room-sized ENIACs, and other space-devouring machines could perform fairly well. It may have taken them several days to compute the square roots of a large sequence of numbers, but they got there. In the 1950s the invention of the transistor and the microchip made smaller, faster, and more efficient
computers possible.

Searle was writing well after computers were more than toys and less the size of freight cars. Popper did not have that advantage, although it needs to be explained just how this might have affected his thought.

Robert Paul
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