The Computer as Logic Prosthesis

Fluency in symbolic and abstract thought enables us to engage in very complex behaviors at a practical and imaginary level, something that we've always done in relation to the currently in vogue models of how things work. The computer is a electronic Logical Manipulator that uses the model of the algorithm developed by Bertrand Russell   at the turn of the century to demonstrate how logic could have alternative answers to the same question over a period of time. This idea was taken by Alan Turing   and made into five simple rules that govern all the internal logic of a computer. From his first forays into cracking the `Enigma' code, Turing recognised that the computer could potentially mimic any other machine - even though his computer was hard-wired to solve one problem, it wasn't long before flexibility (programmability) came into play.

Bertrand Russell; (1872-1970) English Analytical Philosopher and radical.

Alan Turing (1912-54) English Mathematician and pioneer computer scientist.

What's important here is that the computer is an algorithmic  (logical) and not a symbolic processor. It operates like my car does in the action of `I run'; that is it substitutes technical means in a process that I may not understand to carry out an action which I direct. Complex arithmetic functions that I may not understand, but could be done by hand, take over and exaggerate `I compute'. What the computer adds over, say, Pascal's mechanical calculator, is pure speed, plus an ability to concatenate functions. Algorithm: "A series of instructions or procedural steps for the solution of a specific problem." (as opposed to a heuristic approach, or trial and error)

The computer can act initially like another machine, a ledger book say, but can then concatenate these functions (ledger book + calculator = spreadsheet) and then it can represent information in a way that helps in our symbolic manipulations (spreadsheet + drawing = graph). In this way the computer lets us use more sophisticated words to describe what is happening; from I run, to I represent, now we can add abstract (neural) words like `I summarise', `I extrapolate', `I pattern'.

Concatenation plus Speed

It is this ability of the computer to take over calculation and speed it up immensely and display the results as patterns, that has given rise to our understanding of chaos theory and change the technical/culture model by which things are done. It's not the sophistication of the logic that has allowed us to begin to understand complex systems, but the speed which we can get through vast numbers of calculations. The computer allows us to keep ourselves for making abstractions or inferences from the visually codified material

The Mandelbrot set is a very simple equation:
z = z2 + c.

Taken as a algorithm, the mandelbrot set could be rendered like this:
Define z
Define c
For count 1 to infinity
z = z2 + c
Next count

The Information Prosthesis.

The ability to assemble of large amounts of data onto a screen, and the ability manipulate, colour and dimensionalise this information, makes the computer a kind of mathematically accurate imaginative space. The use of the computer as a information prosthetic, to translate between sets of data and abstractions is, it's prime exploitable ability - whether it's used for useful or destructive ends is still a `user function'.

- let me give you prosthetic!
Well, fine, but how does it relate to self?
What about this technical/cultural model of `how things work' then?
Some more about chaos...
More on information's relationship with mathematics...