Contemplating the Newlyn-Phillips Machine

As mentioned earlier, the Newlyn-Phillips machine is an analogue computer for calculating some macroeconomic variables based on others. (Mary Morgan makes a good case that the dropping of Newlyn from the machine's name was an injustice, so I will use her term for the gadget.) You can get a sense of how it works by watching the video above.

Imagine that someone had created this machine as a work of art, or a student exercise in a hydromechanics class. (I don't see any reason that this could not have happened.) Then along come Phillips (the same Phillips of "Phillips Curve" fame, by the way) and Newlyn, who simply notice that they can use it as a macroeconomic computer.

If you believe that computers think, then at what point would that one have started thinking? Was it already contemplating the macro-economy when it was an art project, or did it suddenly begin thinking about it when Newlyn and Phillips noticed it could be used in that fashion?


  1. In case you've not seen it, there is an animated, annotated model of the Phillips machine at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand:

    Takes a couple clicks to get it going.

    1. Thanks! I've been looking for that sort of demo.


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