Abandoning the myth that computers compute
One reason for abandoning the myth that computers compute is the fact that computers don’t process symbols. We’re accepting Searle’s dictates that (a) computation is symbol manipulation according to the meaning of the shapes of the symbo0ls, and (b) symbols are tokens whose shapes have been assigned meanings by someone or other (who has a brain).
As every computer scientist knows, computers can’t internally react to the shapes of anything. Anyone who knows the von Neumann architecture or the electronics of the digital computer knows they react to voltage level, semiconductor switch state and possibly magnetic orientation, not to inner shape.
But a certain shape is a value of property (the property of shape). Computers do internally react to values of other properties, just not shape. Does that mean that nevertheless computers compute – that the concept of machine computation as indicated above should helpfully be expanded to include manipulating values of these other properties?
Well yes, if the values of the other properties have meanings assigned by some presumably human observer. But do the values of these other properties that computers do in fact internally react to have assigned meanings?
The following is a comment, slightly expanded, I stuck on philosophy.stackexchange today. It’s a great forum. It forces you to compress ideas (usually a big challenge):
I’m using Searle’s concept of symbol as a tokenized shape, and the shape has a meaning, or interpretation. So the shape (not the substance of the token but a value of a property of the substance) is the first term in a 2-term relation, the 2nd of which is a meaning (ignoring the problem of universals!).
A human has perceived the shape and assigned a meaning to it. So the 1st term is really an inner representation of a shape (and the meaning also an inner representation).
Representations of voltage levels and semiconductor states can’t be 1st terms of this type of relation since humans can’t perceive them. I think that’s the issue.
That’s one proposed idea of why computers don’t compute, according to Searle’s conception of computation as described above.