Computers, computations and Algorithms. Among these processes are agents that seem to be designed to perpetuate themselves—they are seen to act in their own best interest or perhaps to some other external end. They seem to have purpose and intent.
Naturally occurring processes come with some apparatus that performs the process but Euclid’s algorithm is the same process whether it is done by a person or a computer as it obeys a program designed to express the algorithm.
I choose here to distinguish between a process and the collection of physical things that interact as that process unfolds. The computer is a bunch of physical parts that together interact to carry out a process. It has recently become strategic to intervene in a calculation which is running on one computer, transmit its state to another computer, and there to resume the calculation as if it had not been interrupted. All of this is done in ignorance of the causal nature of the process. In such a case the computation and process has been moved but the computer has not. Indeed we now sometimes say that the “virtual machine” has been moved to describe this change. As emphasized in the cartoon the state may be duplicated or even discarded. This too is common practice in large calculations.
In “Permutation City”, Greg Egan entertains with questions of whether a process need be carried out to be experienced and whether a repeated process is ‘experienced repeatedly’. (Egan digression)
I ignore here the question of whether these things to which we give names, are real; I merely note that it has become useful to speak of them as things in order to explain their planned and observed behavior. Indeed such speech is part of practical engineering in data centers.
The Java level of reality
The brain is a physical collection of parts and produces consciousness for internal consumption. It seems natural to me to consider consciousness a process performed by but distinct from the brain, much as we have learned to separate a process from the underlying computer hardware. To make a modular unit, however, we must package much of the sub-conscious which is integral to the conscious process. We do not know how to do this now but the last century of brain science seems to lead inexorably to the notion that they are separable. If I understand Lakoff, he believes this packaging boundary will present an unsurmountable barrier to this separation. I thinks that he thinks that he is his neurons and not the process therein. I find this a logical and coherent stance, but it is not mine.
Searle appears unwilling to identify with the process without the brain.