Saturday, January 20, 2018
Your Cell Phone Ain’t Smart!
And neither is your computer, your iPod, or your smart television.
Hate to break it to you…
The revelation came to me—perhaps obviously—when I reacted with amazement to the mobile phone application, Shazam.
It seemed so intelligent!
You play a song into any device sporting its software and, shazam, it tells you the song.
All Shazam does is compare the sound waves of whatever song you play into your device to the thousands of songs in its data base. If there’s a match, it tells you the name of the artist and the song.
No offense to dogs, but the phenomenon is basically the same as telling your dog to “sit.” The dog doesn’t understand what “sit” means. She simply matches it to a set of internal experiences—like the praise or treats that accompanies her sitting.
Your dog fails to understand the meaning of sitting.
Consider your subjective experience. We humans, because we are bodies, have what’s called embodied consciousness. We experience qualities, called qualia in philosophy. (Qualia from the Latin, qualis, meaning qualitatively constituted). When you bite into an apple, for example, its unique taste, the sweetness of it, its fluidity, its crunchiness are all examples of qualia.
In philosophy of mind, these experiences are called phenomenal consciousness. Our subjective experiences, then, comprise our phenomenal consciousness. Carl Linnaeus, born in 1707, named our species homo sapiens meaning a living being capable of wisdom.
Of course it’s arguable as to whether tasting an apple represents wisdom, but there’s more.
Consciousness requires us to be conscious of something. This is known as intentional consciousness. Intentional stems from the Latin verb intendere, meaning to extend or stretch outward. When you look at the apple in front of you, for example, your consciousness stretches out to perceive the apple. You direct your attention to it; you see it and, perhaps later, smell it and taste it.
In the final analysis, consciousness, certainly part of what’s known as smartness or intelligence, contains both phenomenal and intentional consciousness. Because of the latter, all kinds of things are stored in our memory.
Therefore, when you encounter an apple, not only do you stretch out to perceive the apple, but you access memories of apples. When’s the last time you shared an apple with someone? What did they look like last time you bought some in the store? Remember the apple pie scene in the movie, Michael?
And so on.
For all the freaking out about computers and cell phones, they really do extremely simple things. They store information; they move information. That’s about it. Because they are based in silicone and, well, are dead, they are not embodied. Therefore, they fail to have the experience of an apple, to stretch out to conceive of an apple, or to have any of the associations to apples.
Next time you ask Shazam to identify Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, and you get jazzed when it tells you it’s that song, please remember all the program does not understand:
Who is Neil Young?
What’s a harvest moon?
How do you feel when you hear the song?
You might remember this stanza:
Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.
When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.
But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye.
Being in love, dancing, harvest moons, strangers, watching from afar, lovers, hearts, lateness, climbing, celebrating, shining, eyes, and more, well…
They are uniquely our experiences as humans.
Viva la difference!!
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP