Showing posts from April, 2011

We're Not Computers 2: I Think, Sebastian, Therefore I Am

Use your new friend as a personal body servant or a tireless field hand. The custom tailored genetically engineered humanoid replicant, designed especially for your needs. Last time I was attempting to grope my way towards an understanding of the nature of our bodies and brains as machines by considering the eye. It was a useful exercise; and I concluded that whilst an eye might be a squashy camera, vision is not the same as the software we might use to display the images. After all a digital camera attached to computer is nothing without someone looking at it, interpreting it, being aware of it. At the moment a human mind is the only thing that can do this. Until we develop computers that can interpret and be aware of what they're looking at that is. We may not be as far off this as we might think. Whilst it's unlikely that we'll develop replicants capable of expressing wonder at having seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion by November 2019 (or soon

Dreaming of the Starlight: 4

Thursday 9 June 1994 What I really enjoyed back then about hitching around to see bands was being on my own. Nobody else seemed to understand that, for most people it was a social thing.  I on the other hand always got frustrated when I found someone else doing what I was doing - often before I knew what was happening I'd been pressured into travelling with people I hardly knew and having to hang out with and talk to them. This was unsatisfactory. You could never rely on other people. This was another reason my 1994 Lush expedition felt so special. There was no-one else on the road. Sure the gigs themselves were packed, but the only other people experiencing all the gigs were the band and crew. It had been so deserted walking out of Bath earlier that night I had considered lying down by the side of the road on a grassy verge and catching some shuteye, but I'm glad I didn't. In the end I made my bed by 4am and listened to my Split CD whilst falling asleep. I woke u

Pathetic Victories

It's rather worrying that sometimes people get so desperate for fleeting moments of superiority over others that they'll stop at almost nothing to achieve them no matter how pathetic they end up looking. Mr Clarke was one such person. A belligerent ghoul who made my life hell from 1976-1977, a so-called teacher who used to drink whiskey in the stationery cupboard between lessons as a result of which he had a large red nose which seemed to enjoy an existence quite separate from that of the rest of his face. He was almost universally hated because of his constant hectoring tone, violent outbursts against the more unruly elements in the class and sarcastic catchphrase " you just couldn't be bothered ". I suspect he knew very well just how much he was despised and feared, which is probably why he drank so much.  In retrospect he is an almost pathetic figure, but of course at the time I was terrified of him. Years later when I first heard The Headmaster Ritual b

The Definitive Companion

"There's nothing only about being a girl" Like most bad news these days I first became aware of it in the Twitter stream. There in between the hashtags, drunken utterings and missives from the afternoon in California was the sad and unbelievable news that Elisabeth Sladen was dead. I couldn't quite parse it. It didn't fit. She couldn't be dead, she was Sarah-Jane . There's talk of her being remembered fondly by Doctor Who fans of "a certain age" which I assume includes me. But for me it wasn't quite like that. I was, I suppose, a late developer so didn't develop any sort of crush on her. But this didn't matter, for me she became the definitive companion - Jamie, Zoe and Jo were all part of my young childhood imagination but Sarah-Jane was the first of the Doctor's friends I could identify with or imagine being my friend. An older sister or an aunt perhaps. At first she seemed to be written too self-consciously as a voci

We're Not Computers 1: I Just Do Eyes

Ever since we invented computers we've started to think of our own brains as computers, dubbing the computers themselves "electronic brains". Neither is the other. Whilst I have no doubt that one day we will invent thinking machines, sentient intelligences with no appreciable difference from our own minds, at the moment we're barking up the wrong tree. In fact I would go so far as to say we're barking up a tree in the wrong forest. On a different continent. This is because the way we think about our minds and brains isn't really how they work. Perhaps unsurprising seeing as it's the brains themselves doing this thinking. We imagine we are organic computers and therefore built electronic boxes in our own mental image; how we thought of ourselves at the time. If we'd been able to build computers in an earlier age, say when the heart was imagined to be the seat of consciousness, perhaps our computers would have resembled pumps. To demonstrate the