Daniel Clement Dennett


Computers were originally just supposed to be number-crunchers, but now their number-crunching has been harnessed in a thousand imaginative ways to create new virtual machines, such as video games and word processors, in which the underlying number-crunching is almost invisible, and in which new powers seem quite magical. Our brains, similarly, weren’t designed (except for some very recent peripheral organs) for word processing, but now a large portion-perhaps even the lion’s share-of the activity that takes place in adult human brains is involved in a sort of word processing: speech production and comprehension, and the serial rehearsal and rearrangement of linguistic items, or better, their neural surrogates. And these activities magnify and transform the underlying hardware powers in ways that seem (from the “outside”) quite magical.