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Artificial Intelligence: Can Computers Think? Essay

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This essay will address the question of whether computers can think, possess intelligence or mental states. It will proceed from two angles. Firstly it is required to define what constitutes “thinking.” An investigation into this debate however demonstrate that the very definition of thought is contested ground. Secondly, it is required for a reflection on what form artificial intelligence should take, be it a notion of “simulated intelligence,” the weak AI hypothesis, or “actual thinking,” the strong AI hypothesis. (Russell, Norvig p 1020) The first angle informs us of the theoretical pursuit of what it means for something to think, whereas the second seeks to probe how it could demonstrated that thinking is occurring. As a result we have two fissures: on one hand, a disagreement of what constitutes thinking and on the other a question of the methodological approaches to AI. However, this essay will argue that both proponents of the possibility of AI and its detractors, are guilty of an anthropomorphic conception of thought. This is the idea that implicit in the question of whether computers can think, we are really asking whether they can think like us. As a result this debate can be characterised being concerned with narrow human understanding of the concept of thought. This I will argue that this flaw characterises the various philosophical theories of artificial intelligence.
On one hand functionalists, such as Fodor and Putnam, argue that “the psychology of a system depends” not on the physical architecture of a system, neurons in the mind brain or the wires in a computer, but instead how it is “put together.” (Fodor 1981 p 114) As they characterise mental states as functional states – inputs of stimuli and outputs of behav...


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...he Philosophy of Mind' in The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing. Floridi, Ludiano. (Ed.) Blackwell, pp 135-153
Russell, Stuart J. and Norvig, Peter. (2010) Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (3rd ed.) Upper Saddle River. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Searle, John. (1980) 'Minds, Brains and Programs'. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3 (3) , pp 417-457
Searle, John. (1984) Minds, Brains and Science. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Snell, M.B. (2008) 'Do you have free will?' in California Alumni Magazine. March/April.
Thagard, Paul. 'Computing in the Philosophy of Science' in The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing. Floridi, Ludiano. (Ed.) Blackwell, pp 307-318
Turing, Alan. (1950) 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence'. Mind, 59, pp 433-460.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. (1980) Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol 1. Oxford: Blackwell.


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