Saturday, August 25, 2007

Machine Code

The purpose of language, English say, must be to enable communication between one human being and another. Why would I need the same language to think in my own head as I need to pass on information to you? For example I tell you ‘I feel hot’ and this conveys an idea to you but I am not conscious of thinking the words ‘I feel hot’ in my head in order to convey to myself the idea that I am hot.

At the base of computers is ‘machine code’ that is the stuff that tells the computer what to do etc. A code of 1s’ and zeros far too messy for humans to usefully employ and so there is a higher language that makes it easier to use plus an interpreter which converts this higher language into the language that the machine does understand. The need to interpret slows the process down considerably.

I feel that there is an analogy here between the machine process and the human process. The higher language , English for example, when used by me to speak to you is the result of some kind of interpreter in my head converting the ‘machine code’ of my thoughts into a language, English, which the interpreter in your head converts into your own private code and you ‘understand’ me.
I know that Wittgenstein says this is all tosh and there is no such thing as a private language but I will carry on with the thought because I am not convinced and because it leads to an chess example and Wittgenstein himself used a lot of chess analogies.

I am an average chess player and I recognise that many good players see father and more quickly than I do. I find that when I am considering a position I do think in English, ‘Pawn takes pawn, knight takes pawn, bishop to king 5 check etc ‘ as well as to a lesser extent being conscious of patterns which are not expressed in my head in English.
It occurred to me to ask why do I need internally this English language to express the moves to myself and I contrasted it with the feeling for pattern in the game which I also had. I thought that maybe the difference between me and the good players must be that they had got shot of English altogether as a thought process and were employing something more in line with machine code in a computer.
When I asked a couple of them about this they looked at me as if I were a total idiot. I got my coat.

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