Responding to Joe Niederberger's post of Jun 9, 2013 9:48 PM:
I'm in 'broad' agreement with much of your argument, except your concluding paragraph:
"Comparing humans directly to machines generates a lot of emotional heat, some of which may be good, and some counterproductive".
I believe it is entirely counterproductive to try to 'compare' humans (directly or indirectly) to machines because it is entirely clear by now that no such comparison is 'meaningful' at all - a human [and indeed any living creature] is a very different category from any machine (regardless how complex the machine may be). [I am NOT claiming that we shall 'never' scientifically understand living creatures, thought processes, etc - just that we are rather far from needed understanding today].
Emotional heat is not required - that is in any case generally counterproductive (IMHO). Human beings (and, indeed, dogs as well) are 'living systems', and we are just beginning to learn a little about such systems: what is abundantly clear by now is that such systems are fundamentally different from any machines (regardless how complex).
As to your observations about 'human thought' and a dog's 'nervous system processes', I have a fair number of reservations - which unfortunately I'm unable to articulate effectively in this 'prose mode' of discussion to which we are here limited.
(A rather small degree of enhanced understanding is possible almost rightaway if we were to use what I call 'prose + structural graphics' [p+sg] - but this would demand that we both use p+sg to articulate our different ideas about machines, living systems, and the like. I believe that human scientific understanding is today rather far from enabling us to understand living processes in general, and we're even further away from being able to understand 'thought processes' - and even the 'nervous system processes' that you've discussed in the cases of dogs, ant colonies, and the like. Such processes are something 'associated' with living systems (just what these associations may be and how they may operate we do not know).