(Note: This essay is likely to evolve, but started as "What is a Machine?" on the "Ontological Comedian" blog)
The concept of machine pervades our culture, and has
occupied an important place in philosophical debates for at least the
last two or three centuries.
For example, it is often argued that living organisms, or the human mind, are "ultimately just machines". I.e. underlying all the organic, often amorphous complexity
of the world we perceive, is a level at which ultra-miniscule machines
function predictably. Electrons spinning around nuclei at an exact,
measurable speed; light photons traveling always at a particular speed.
At the heart of biological processes are DNA molecules whose properties
can in theory be exactly deduced from the sequence of molecules of which
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