Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Everything is a Computer

  1. Oct 26, 2003 #1
    Since no one seems to care that everything is different, I figured I would say something slightly less obvious: Everything is a Computer.

    I am, of course, speaking in the very metaphorical and abstact sense of a computer being any object that takes in a certain set of inputs, and, based on a specific set of internal rules, results in a determined output.

    Basically, every object in the physical universe fits this definition, therefore, everything is a computer.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2003 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    judgement, opinions, feelings, intution are not a part of our current definition of a computer...unless you don't have any of these traits, you might be considered a computer...
  4. Oct 27, 2003 #3
    Perhaps you could say that everything is an informational process, but 'to compute' means something quite specific. It is to perform various functions with a symbolic language. Apparently the brain uses no such language and works in a different way. Don't think rocks and trees use a symbolic language either.

    You might be interested in this:

    God Is the Machine
  5. Oct 27, 2003 #4


    User Avatar

    Erm... I am not sure about that. In reality, computers do not really do their computing in a symbolic language, they do it in the flow of charge between semiconductors. You can also say that humans use a symbolic language to think, as most of us "think in words."

    I think the real distinction is that computers have a use/task/purpose connotation.
  6. Oct 27, 2003 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle put the final nail in the coffin of determinism.
  7. Oct 27, 2003 #6
    everything is a computor

    if everything that has an action has a response. then you would say a computor needs human imputs to factor the question
    In other words a computor by itself has no fuction with out the programmer. so how could this tool be used as the controller and us the game?
  8. Oct 27, 2003 #7
    Re: everything is a computor

    It is easy to create 'open' functions. In otherwords, a function that doesn't finish in a known amount of time. Like solving the game of chess: assuming it is possible, how long would it take? If you create a solar powered computer programed with an algorithm to solve this problem and it took a million years, it could continue to funtion long after its origonal programmers became extinct... If a computers programed object was to 'control' its creators, well... isn't that the programming of every normal teenager? And if the object is to 'control the masses', well... aren't there a lot of governments interested in that program... and if the goal is to influence people to purchase certain products... wouldn't every corporation be interested in that program?
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2003
  9. Oct 27, 2003 #8
    That is a very dramatic statement but not exactly true. The Uncertainty Principle does not contradict a deterministic universe. Uncertainty rules out the possiblity of we humans, being limited and partial observers, being able to actually predict, with Certainty, the future, since we can never know all the initial variables exactly.

    We humans, more generally, we observers, can never know all the factors that determine the Universe. That does not mean that the Universe is not determined by variables which we are incapable of determining.
  10. Oct 27, 2003 #9
    yes... but if there is a computer C with normal computer functions and special X, Y, Z properties... wouldn't C still be a computer - and more than a computer?
  11. Oct 28, 2003 #10
    Yes and that flow of charge is always in discreet units because they are using a binary language.

    'Thinking in words' is a very high level function of the brain. It is a function or product of the brain not the coding language used to produce it.
  12. Oct 28, 2003 #11
    This is something I've been wondering about for a while. Is the Uncertainty Principle consistent with a universe which has parts with a discreet, precise existence, but information about which is fuzzy because the only way to get this information is by deflecting other particles (eg photons) off them. Thus there is not only a maximum resolution to this information but the aquisition of the information changes the state of the particle being observed. Do you have a reference for this?
  13. Oct 28, 2003 #12
    The human brain does not 'compute' it works differently. A computer could perhaps one day have those qualities and still be a computer.
  14. Oct 28, 2003 #13


    User Avatar

    So is the pulses of the neurones in the brain? What I mean to say that the idea of language itself doesn't really have that much of a significance if we go down to the level of how things actually work. We can't really tell the difference.
  15. Oct 28, 2003 #14
    You can't tell the difference between a person and a computer?

    I don't believe you.

    Or you can't tell the difference between being a person and being a computer?

    How would you know?

    A brain does not work in binary. A neural net does not work in binary. A brain does not compute. A brain works in a fundamentally different way.

    Reference: 'A Universe of Consciousness' G. M. Edelman & G Tononi, published 2000, p47-49
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
  16. Oct 28, 2003 #15


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    No, you are incorrect about what the HUP says. The unvierse has a fundamental graininess to it beyond which things can only be predicted according to probability functions. It has nothing at all to do with the capabilities of humans or number of variables involved. We can't MEASURE an exact position and velocity because a particle doesn't HAVE an exact position and velocity.
    HUP is often described in that way (bouncing a photon off something to detect it changes its energy), but it is a mischaracterization. It is more fundamental than that.

    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
  17. Oct 28, 2003 #16
    I can accept that within the framework of theory, but I don't believe it is experimentally provable: the only data you have is what we CAN MEASURE.
  18. Oct 30, 2003 #17
    Not sure I follow that logic. Different sorts of measurement could disturb it in different ways and give different results couldn't they?

    OK. So its a small wave (a superstring even, which essentially is a small wave).There's nothing too wierd about that is there? It being emitted and absorbed in discreet quanta doesn't make it a particle. (Although clearly there is some fundamentally wierd stuff going on with quantum mechanics) But isn't this 'wave-particle duality' a red-herring?
  19. Oct 30, 2003 #18
    I agree.

    How can we 'see' anything as small as a photon clearly when the only we have to see it is by bumping other photons off it?

    Its like a blind man feeling around with only the aid of a log. (its a strong blind man ok!) He might conclude that the world had no fine details, but would he be justified?
  20. Oct 30, 2003 #19
    Ok, after more thought I will agree with you that HUP does not state that it is based on the limitations of human beings. I did not mean to say that, but after re-reading my post I can easily see how it could be interpreted that way.

    What I meant to say is that HUP does not contradict the possiblity of other theorectical models, including deterministic ones, because it is a theory created by humans and verified by experimental data that is ultimately collected by humans.

    If you begin with the assumption that there are objects in the universe whose exact position in time and space are unknowable to humans, then the next logical step in dealing with those objects would be to create a mathematical model in which exact points don't exist.

    Determinism, as theory, is still alive because the Classical Model of Physics, which is deterministic, is still used extensively in engineering and mechanics; there are many scales on which quantum effects and relativity are not worth computing.

    If you are asserting that HUP is the ultimate reality, then I believe you would be making the same mistake that Determinists made 100 years ago.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2003
  21. Oct 30, 2003 #20
    That is a great analogy!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook