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"Thought, Sign and Machine - The Computer Reconsidered" is translated from "Tanke, Sprog og Maskine", Akademisk Forlag,Copenhagen, 1994, by Gary Puckering.The English e-text edition has been revised and slightly abridged by the author. The translation was madepossible by a grant from the Danish National Research Council for the Humanities.

Date of publication of the e-text edition on the Web: March 15, 1999.

©Niels Ole Finnemann 1999. All rights reserved. This text may be copied freely and distributed either electronically or in printed form under the following conditions. You may not copy or distribute it in any other fashion without expres written permission from me. Otherwise I encourage you to share this work widely and to link freely to it.


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Niels Ole Finnemann:

Thought, Sign and Machine - the Computer Reconsidered

Translated by Gary L. Puckering

Everything really moves continuously

Alan M. Turing

Table of Contents

  • 1. Overview
    • 1.1 Framing the question
    • 1.2 Earlier theories
    • 1.3 The structure of the book
  • 2. The origin of a new concept of information
    • 2.1 Missing information - the thermodynamic demon
      • Boltzmann's presentation of the problem
    • 2.2 The price of information - Boltzmann's dilemma
    • 2.3 The sign and the designatum
    • 2.4 The physics of thought
    • 2.5 Thermodynamic biology?
    • 2.6 Mathematics as an approximative model
    • 2.7 Summing up
  • 3. Missing information
    • 3.1 Information as a function of energy
    • 3.2 The problem of observation in 20th century physics
    • 3.3 Energy and information
  • 4. The language of logic and the logic of language
    • 4.1 The truth of a sentence
    • 4.2 The logic and the life of the sign
    • 4.3 The idea of a mechanical decision procedure
  • 5. The universal computer
    • 5.1 The demand for physically defined symbolic forms
    • 5.2 The demand for universality and the dissolution of mechanical and symbolic procedures
    • 5.3 Formal and informational notation
    • 5.4 The automatic, the circular and the choice machine
    • 5.5 The universal computer as an innovation in the history of the machine and of mechanical theory
    • 5.6 Written down by a machine
    • 5.7 Turing’s machine, consciousness and the Turing test
    • 5.8 Consciousness in Turing's hall of mirrors
    • 5.9 Symbol generative competence as a criterion of intelligence
  • 6. The breakthrough of information theory
    • 6.1 Informational notation
    • 6.2 Information as random variation
    • 6.3 Information and noise
    • 6.4 A generalization of the physical information concept?
      • Not the mathematical theory
      • Not a purely mathematical theory
      • The problem of noise and the ability to generate symbols
      • ... nor a communication theory
    • 6.5 The semantic ghost
  • 7. The semantics of notation forms
    • 7.1 The expression substance and the semantic potential of informational notation
    • 7.2 The expression substance and the sign function
    • 7.3 Signal, sign and code - Umberto Eco
    • 7.4 Eco's sign concept - "Signals" and "signs"
    • 7.5 The redundancy concept
    • 7.6. Redundancy in notation systems with limited inventories
    • 7.7 Linguistic redundancy structures
      • Writing - a system of expression and/or a language?
      • Redundancy and regularity
    • 7.8 The redundancy structure as a criterion for distinguishing between semantic regimes
  • 8. Informational notation and the algorithmic revolution
    • 8.1 The problem of noise theory
    • 8.2 The redundancy concept in information theory
    • 8.3 Linguistic, formal and informational mediation between the expression substance and meaning
    • 8.4 The unique characteristics of informational notation
    • 8.5 A notation that is not accessible to sense perception
    • 8.6. The algorithmic thread
    • 8.7 The multisemantic potential of the algorithmic structure
    • 8.8 The algorithmic revolution
  • 9. The informational sign function
    • 9.1 The algorithm in the machine
    • 9.2 The informational sign system
    • 9.3 The computer-based sign
    • 9.4 The properties of computer-based signs
    • 9.5 The interface between the internal and the external
  • 10. Epilogue
    • 10.1 What is a computer?
    • 10.2 A new tech-nology for textual representation.
    • 10.3 Computeriztion of visual representation as a triumph of modern textual culture
    • 10.4 One world, one archive.
    • 10. 5 Modernity modernized.
  • Literature