The Solow Paradox

Written by Sam Vaknin


The world is debatingrepparttar Solow Paradox. Named afterrepparttar 133583 Nobel laureate in economics, it was stated by him thus: "You can seerepparttar 133584 computer age everywhere these days, except inrepparttar 133585 productivity statistics". The venerable economic magazine, "The Economist" in its issue dated July 24th, quotesrepparttar 133586 no less venerable Professor Robert Gordon ("one of America's leading authorities on productivity") - p.20: "...the productivity performance ofrepparttar 133587 manufacturing sector ofrepparttar 133588 United States economy since 1995 has been abysmal rather than admirable. Not only has productivity growth in non-durable manufacturing decelerated in 1995-9 compared to 1972-95, but productivity growth in durable manufacturing stripped of computers has decelerated even more."

What should be held true -repparttar 133589 hype orrepparttar 133590 dismal statistics? The answer to this question is of crucial importance to economies in transition. If investment in IT (information technology) actually RETARDS growth - then it should be avoided, at least until a functioning marketplace is there to counter its growth suppressing effects.

The notion that IT retards growth is counter-intuitive. It would seem that, atrepparttar 133591 least, computers allow us to do more ofrepparttar 133592 same things faster. Typing, order processing, inventory management, production processes, number crunching are all managed more efficiently by computers. Added efficiency should translate into enhanced productivity. Put simply,repparttar 133593 same number of people can do more, faster, more cheaply with computers than they can without them. Yet reality begs to differ.

Two elements are often neglected in consideringrepparttar 133594 beneficial effects of IT.

The first is thatrepparttar 133595 concept of information technology comprises two very distinct economic activities: an all-purpose machine (the PC) and its enabling applications and a medium (the internet). Capital assets as distinct from media assets are governed by different economic principles, should be managed differently and berepparttar 133596 subject of different philosophical points of view.

Massive, double digit increases in productivity are feasible inrepparttar 133597 manufacturing of computer hardware. The inevitable outcome is an exponential explosion in computing and networking power. The dual rules which govern IT - Moore's (a doubling of chip capacity and computing prowess every 18 months) and Metcalf's (the exponential increase in a network's processing ability as more computers connect to it) - also dictate a breathtaking pace of increased productivity inrepparttar 133598 hardware cum software aspect of IT. This has been duly detected by Robert Gordon in his "Hasrepparttar 133599 'New Economy' renderedrepparttar 133600 productivity slowdown obsolete?".

But for this increased productivity to trickle down torepparttar 133601 rest ofrepparttar 133602 economy a few conditions have to be met.

The transition from old technologies to a new one (the computer renders many a technology obsolete) must not involve too much "creative destruction". The costs of getting rid of old hardware, software, of altering management techniques or adopting new ones, of shedding redundant manpower, of searching for new employees to replacerepparttar 133603 unqualified or unqualifiable, of installing new hardware, software and of training new people in all levels ofrepparttar 133604 corporation are enormous. They must never exceedrepparttar 133605 added benefits ofrepparttar 133606 newly introduced technology inrepparttar 133607 long run. Hencerepparttar 133608 crux ofrepparttar 133609 debate. Is IT more expensive to introduce, run and maintain thanrepparttar 133610 technologies that it so confidently aims to replace? Will new technologies be spun offrepparttar 133611 core IT in a pace sufficient to compensate forrepparttar 133612 disappearance of old ones? Asrepparttar 133613 technology mature, will it overcome its childhood maladies (lack of operational reliability, bad design, non-specificity, immaturity ofrepparttar 133614 first generation of computer users, absence of user friendliness and so on)?

Moreover, is IT an evolution or a veritable revolution? Does it merely allow us to do more ofrepparttar 133615 same only in a different way - or does it open up hitherto unheard of vistas for human imagination and creativity? The signals are mixed. IT did NOT succeed to do to human endeavour what electricity,repparttar 133616 internal combustion engine or evenrepparttar 133617 telegraph have done. It is also not clear at all that IT is a UNIVERSAL phenomenon suitable to all climes and mentalities. The penetration of both IT andrepparttar 133618 medium it gave rise to (the internet) is not uniform throughoutrepparttar 133619 world even whererepparttar 133620 purchasing power is similar and even amongrepparttar 133621 corporate class. Countries post communism should take all this into consideration. Their economies may be too obsolete and hidebound, poor and badly managed to absorb yet another critical change inrepparttar 133622 form of IT. The introduction of IT into an ill-prepared market or corporation can be and often is counter-productive and growth-retarding.


Then, of course, there isrepparttar 133623 Internet.

The internet runs on computers but it is related to them inrepparttar 133624 same way that a TV show is related to a TV set. To bundle to two, as is often done today, obscuresrepparttar 133625 true picture and can often be very misleading. For instance: it is close to impossible to measure productivity inrepparttar 133626 services sector, let alone is something as wildly informal and dynamic asrepparttar 133627 internet. It is clear by now thatrepparttar 133628 internet is a medium and, as such, is subject torepparttar 133629 evolutionary cycle of its predecessors. Central and Eastern Europe has just entered this cycle whilerepparttar 133630 USA isrepparttar 133631 most advanced.

The internet is simplyrepparttar 133632 latest in a series of networks which revolutionized our lives. A century beforerepparttar 133633 internet,repparttar 133634 telegraph andrepparttar 133635 telephone have been similarly heralded as "global" and transforming.

So, what shouldrepparttar 133636 CEE countries expect to happen torepparttar 133637 internet globally and, later, within their own territories? The issue here cannot be cast in terms of productivity. It is better to apply to itrepparttar 133638 imagery ofrepparttar 133639 business cycle.

As we said, every medium of communications goes throughrepparttar 133640 same evolutionary cycle:

It starts with Anarchy - or The Public Phase.

At this stage,repparttar 133641 medium andrepparttar 133642 resources attached to it are very cheap, accessible, under no regulatory constraints. The public sector steps in : higher education institutions, religious institutions, government, not for profit organizations, non governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions, etc. Bedevilled by limited financial resources, they regardrepparttar 133643 new medium as a cost effective way of disseminating their messages.

The Internet was not exempt from this phase which is at its death throes. It started with a complete computer anarchy manifested in ad hoc networks, local networks, networks of organizations (mainly universities and organs ofrepparttar 133644 government such as DARPA, a part ofrepparttar 133645 defence establishment, inrepparttar 133646 USA). Non commercial entities jumped onrepparttar 133647 bandwagon and started sewing these networks together (an activity fully subsidized by government funds). The result was a globe encompassing network of academic institutions. The American Pentagon establishedrepparttar 133648 network of all networks,repparttar 133649 ARPANET. Other government departments joinedrepparttar 133650 fray, headed byrepparttar 133651 National Science Foundation (NSF) which withdrew only lately fromrepparttar 133652 Internet.

The Chinese Room Revisited

Written by Sam Vaknin

Whole forests have been wasted inrepparttar effort to refuterepparttar 133582 Chinese Room Thought Experiment proposed by Searle in 1980 and refined (really derived from axioms) in 1990. The experiment envisages a room in which an English speaker sits, equipped with a book of instructions in English. Through one window messages in Chinese are passed on to him (inrepparttar 133583 original experiment, two types of messages). He is supposed to followrepparttar 133584 instructions and correlaterepparttar 133585 messages received with other pieces of paper, already inrepparttar 133586 room, also in Chinese. This collage he passes on torepparttar 133587 outside through yet another window. The comparison with a computer is evident. There is input, a processing unit and output. What Searle tried to demonstrate is that there is no need to assume thatrepparttar 133588 central processing unit (the English speaker) understands (or, for that matter, performs any other cognitive or mental function)repparttar 133589 input orrepparttar 133590 output (both in Chinese). Searle generalized and stated that this shows that computers will never be capable of thinking, being conscious, or having other mental states. In his picturesque language "syntax is not a sufficient base for semantics". Consciousness is not reducible to computations. It takes a certain "stuff" (the brain) to get these results.

Objections torepparttar 133591 mode of presentation selected by Searle and torepparttar 133592 conclusions that he derived were almost immediately raised. Searle fought back effectively. But throughout these debates a few points seemed to have escaped most of those involved.

First,repparttar 133593 English speaker insiderepparttar 133594 room himself is a conscious entity, replete and complete with mental states, cognition, awareness and emotional powers. Searle went torepparttar 133595 extent of introducing himself torepparttar 133596 Chinese Room (in his disputation). Whereas Searle would be hard pressed to prove (to himself) thatrepparttar 133597 English speaker inrepparttar 133598 room is possessed of mental states this is notrepparttar 133599 case if he himself were inrepparttar 133600 room. The Cartesian maxim holds: "Cogito, ergo sum". But this argument though valid is not strong. The English speaker (and Searle, for that matter) can easily be replaced inrepparttar 133601 thought experiment by a Turing machine. His functions are recursive and mechanical.

But there is a much more serious objection. Whomever composedrepparttar 133602 book of instructions must have been conscious, possessed of mental states and of cognitive processes. Moreover, he must also have had a perfect understanding of Chinese to have authored it. It must have been an entity capable of thinking, analysing, reasoning, theorizing and predicting inrepparttar 133603 deepest senses ofrepparttar 133604 words. In other words: it must have been intelligent. So, intelligence (we will use it hitherto as a catchphrase forrepparttar 133605 gamut of mental states) was present inrepparttar 133606 Chinese Room. It was present inrepparttar 133607 book of instructions and it was present inrepparttar 133608 selection ofrepparttar 133609 input of Chinese messages and it was present whenrepparttar 133610 results were deciphered and understood. An intelligent someone must have judgedrepparttar 133611 results to have been coherent and "right". An intelligent agent must have fedrepparttar 133612 English speaker withrepparttar 133613 right input. A very intelligent, conscious, being with a multitude of cognitive mental states must have authoredrepparttar 133614 "program" (the book of instructions). Depending onrepparttar 133615 content of correlated inputs and outputs, it is conceivable that this intelligent being was also possessed of emotions or an aesthetic attitude as we know it. Inrepparttar 133616 case of real life computers this would berepparttar 133617 programmer.

But it isrepparttar 133618 computer that Searle is talking about not its programmer, or some other, external source of intelligence. The computer is devoid of intelligence,repparttar 133619 English speaker does not understand Chinese (="Mentalese") notrepparttar 133620 programmer (or who authoredrepparttar 133621 book of instructions). Yet, isrepparttar 133622 SOURCE ofrepparttar 133623 intelligence that important? Shouldn't we emphasizerepparttar 133624 LOCUS (site) ofrepparttar 133625 intelligence, where it is stored and used?

Surely,repparttar 133626 programmer isrepparttar 133627 source of any intelligence that a computer possesses. But is this relevant? Ifrepparttar 133628 computer were to effectively make use ofrepparttar 133629 intelligence bestowed upon it byrepparttar 133630 programmer wouldn't we say that it is intelligent? If tomorrow we will discover that our mental states are induced in us by a supreme intelligence (known to many as God) should we then say that we are devoid of mental states? If we were to discover in a distant future that what we call "our" intelligence is really a clever program run from a galactic computer centre will we then feel less entitled to say that we are intelligent? Will our subjective feelings,repparttar 133631 way that we experience our selves, change inrepparttar 133632 wake of this newly acquired knowledge? Will we no longer feelrepparttar 133633 mental states andrepparttar 133634 intelligence that we used to feel prior to these discoveries? If Searle were to live in that era would he have declared himself devoid of mental, cognitive, emotional and intelligent states just becauserepparttar 133635 source andrepparttar 133636 mechanism of these phenomena have been found out to be external or remote? Obviously, not. Whererepparttar 133637 intelligence emanates from, what is its source, how it is conferred, stored, what arerepparttar 133638 mechanisms of its bestowal are all irrelevant torepparttar 133639 question whether a given entity is intelligent. The only issue relevant is whetherrepparttar 133640 discussed entity is possessed of intelligence, contains intelligence, has intelligent components, stores intelligence and is able to make a dynamic use of it. The locus and its properties (behaviour) matter. If a programmer chose to store intelligence in a computer then he created an intelligent computer. He conferred his intelligence ontorepparttar 133641 computer. Intelligence can be replicated endlessly. There is no quantitative law of conservation of mental states. We teach our youngsters thereby replicating our knowledge and giving them copies of it without "eroding"repparttar 133642 original. We shed tears inrepparttar 133643 movie theatre becauserepparttar 133644 director succeeded to replicate an emotion in us without losing one bit of original emotion captured on celluloid.

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