Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Road to San Jose

John Haugeland, Having Thought, Harvard UP (Cambridge, MA: 1998) 234:

Now let me tell you how I get to San Jose: I pick the right road (Interstate 880 south), stay on it, and get off at the end. Can we say that the road knows the way to San Jose, or perhaps that the road and I collaborate? I don't think this is as crazy as it may first sound. The complexity of the road (its shape) is comparable to that of the task and highly specific thereto; moreover, staying on the road requires constant high-bandwidth interaction with this very complexity. In other words, the internal guidance systems and the road itself must be closely coupled, in part because much of the "information" upon which the ability depends is "encoded" in the road. Thus, just as an internal map or program, learned and stored in memory, would (pace Simon) have to be deemed part of an intelligent system that used it to get to San Jose, so I suggest that the road should be considered integral to my ability.

In effect, we can say that the road to San Jose is a set of directions to San Jose laid down in the real world rather than on a map. Thus, to the extent there is an analogy between the road and the roadmap; and between the roadmap and the internal map in the memory of the person who knows the way to San Jose, such that any one of these three has the potential to serve exactly the same function in my ability to get to San Jose in the manner of an intelligent person.

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