I will be reacting first to some ideas from chapter 4 of James Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy.
Gee begins the chapter by discussing views of the human mind and learning. He briefly summarizes two perspectives, moving quickly away from the first which he describes as a view that "treats the human mind as if it is pretty much like a digital computer." (73) The reason for this description is a belief that the mind stores rules and computes them. Gee's view, which he seems to indicate is superior, believes that learning is based on previous embodied experiences in the world where people "store these experiences, and make connections or associations among them." (73)
Gee goes on to describe his view on learning. Things got interesting for me when Gee makes a very particular word choice that has me somewhat confused "All the cavepeople who stored the generalization 'Tigers are dangerous' and refused
to apply it to even the first lion they saw probably died without many offspring. The ones who let the many features lions share with tigers trigger the association between these elements and danger passed on a great many more genes." (75) [emphasis added]
What, exactly, does Gee mean when he used the word "refuse" when describing the poor cavepeople who were likely to be gobbled up by lions? Refusal is, to me, a term that explicitly implies choice when it is used in regard to human beings (or, as in this case, pre- or early humans.) Does he believe that the ill-fated cavepeople might have consciously noted that the lion was a distinct creature from a tiger, and then said to themselves "I am not going to apply what I have learned about the striped creature to this golden one?" Or is he using the word "refuse" in the way that we often do about machines (e.g. "my car refused to start!")
This is further complicated by the fact that Gee also seems to be hinting at some evolutionary ideas in his paragraph, namely that the people who did not refuse to make the association were more fit and were selected. If he is implying it had anything to do with their genes, then this further complicates matters, as it makes the possibility of their conscious "refusal" less likely if they are beholden to some sort of genetic leash.
So are people chained to their embodied experiences or not? If, according to Gee, they are, then I do not think that Gee has gotten away from the "digital computer" model as much as he thinks he has.