Living things have perception. When a sensory cell is disturbed, a chain reaction is caused which sends the sensory data to the brain where, through very physical means, it is analyzed and thoughts and emotions are created. If this is all done by physical means, by the complex physical reaction which is the nervous system, do seemingly non-organic things such as my computer have perceptions as I do?

If your question is whether “yourcomputer,” which I take to be an ordinary personal computer, has perceptions asyou do, then the answer is clearly “no.” Your computer has input devices suchas a keyboard, and possibly a scanner, a video camera, and a microphone. Such input devices transduceranalog physical processes into discrete digital symbols, and those symbols arestored in various locations in the computer and then can be manipulated inconcert with computer programs and further input. Your brain also takes inputfrom external physical stimuli such as light, sound waves, etc. It alsotransduces those signals into other forms, typically chemical and thenelectrical signals. Those electrical signals – action potentials, are then propagatedto other locations in the central nervous system. So both the brain and yourcomputer transducer signals and do things with them. One could call bothprocesses “perception”, though the actual mechanisms in your pc and your brain arefunctionally different, and it is a bit misleading to describe them both asperceptual mechanisms.

A related question is whether computerscould have perceptions, that is,whether we could build computers which transduce external stimuli in the sameway our brains do. This question is harder to answer, and it’s one widelydebated in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Part of the reasonthis is such a difficult question to answer is hinted at in your question. Ourperceptual systems begin with external physical stimuli, but we wind up with “thoughtsand emotions.” So to build a computerwhich takes in such stimuli and stores or outputs thoughts and emotions wouldrequire that we not only have a functional account of the mechanisms by whichwe receive such stimuli and begin to transduce and store it, but a full accountof what the mind/brain does with such information in order to bring about therich experiential life we enjoy.

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