Re: What Is a Machine?

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Mon Feb 26 1996 - 20:13:13 GMT

> From: Dawson Jon <>
> Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 14:51:56 GMT
> Continuing with what is a machine, we have to explain our own view ond
> depending on how we structure our machine/not-machine ideas we can come
> to different conclusions as to what fits our description. after all if
> we write a list of items, such as humans, programed computers,
> typewriters, spears, which of these items are machines, where do we
> draw the line. this boundary questionable yet we have been trying to
> place it.

That's the question, alright. And not just where to draw the line, but
what is the dimension (or dimensions) along which this "line" runs?

And while you're at it, here are a few other things to array along the
line(s): human infants, human embryos, monkeys, mice, lizards, worms,
bacteria, amoebas, viruses, plants, hearts, kidneys, artificial kidneys,
cells, artificial cells, people with artificial hearts, people with
artificial hearts and artificial kidneys, people with artificial hearts
and artificial kidneys, and...

> can machines be described by saying that A Machine Is Any Known Object
> That Has A Specific Use And/Or Objective?

It can be so described. Unfortunately, all living creatures would fall
under that definition...

> after all we write programs to reach the objective of modeling our
> behavior, and believe that we obtain this. we also believe that we know
> our objectives (degree, job,house etc)

You've just talked yourself out of your own definition, I think, unless
you meant to say we were machines too (which is fine, but still leaves
us with the question: what are machines?)...

>, but if we say 'god' made us
> (and all other 'non-machines') to do a specific task and then ask what
> that task is can we answer it?

How about: to survive and reproduce? Or, if you want to look at it from a
more human perspective, consider the slave-master, whose slaves are
there for the task of tilling his fields.

But you're the one who introduced the "use" criterion. It doesn't seem
to work. Has anyone got another idea?

> what is the meaning of life?

I've already answered that one: "The smell of petroleum pervades
throughout." This is not a course on the meaning of life, however, it
is on explaining the mind. So stick to the topic, please.

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