Cognition & Reality

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

In The Time Of Modularity

One of the most annoying aspects of mental “modularity,” as presented by Fodor, et al., is that “modularity” had a specific meaning in the late 70s and early 80s  that had more to do with marketing than with anything else. At that time, computers were far less powerful than they are today. For that reason, some hardware products, such as hand-held calculators, which were very expensive, were capable of attaching modules that sold separately to do specific tasks. Rather than paying out front for an entire product, you could buy a separate module to increase memory or to accomplish a specific form of input/output function. In addition, modularity in programming was taking off, something we take for granted today, when almost all computer software represents an accumulation of what we no call “applications.” In a time when processing resources were far more limited than they are today, programmers discovered that creating “modules,” complex routines that could be used over and over again through and across programs, saved processing power and space.  Because the believers in modularity also believe that the mind is a “processor,” the term “modularity of mind” reflects  the limits of computing three decades ago and the selling of  processor capacity.

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