When computers arrived, we inevitably saw ourselves in our machines and the idea of the mind as an information processor became popular. Here, the mind is thought to consist of information processing networks where data is computed and transformed. One of the newest and most fashionable theories argues that the central function of the brain is to statistically predict new information. The idea is that the brain tries to minimise the errors it makes in its predictions by adjusting its expectations as it gets new information.I've long thought about this same issue - that we overuse the metaphor when thinking about the brain. Rather than simply working with the idea that computers replicate certain functions of a brain, we start to believe that the brain must work like (or perhaps in a sense be) a computer. But it does give us an approach that can bear fruit, sometimes for a long time.
27 July 2014
Bell sums up how the metaphors help and probably limit us. 'From photography to supercomputers: how we see ourselves in our inventions' by Vaughan Bell in The Observer, July 26, 2014.