The Debate Over Artificial Intelligence Essay

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The Debate Over Artificial Intelligence

Can machines think? Or rather, can we develop true artificial intelligence in the sense of machines that think and understand as we humans do? This is an interesting problem that is becoming more and more relevant in our lives as computers become more complex and integral to our lives. Two articles, John Searle's "Minds, Brains, and Programs" and William Lycan's "Robots and Minds", present two different answers to this question and also raise several new questions. John Searle takes the position that on one level computers do think - they manipulate symbols - yet on another level they do not think - computers do not understand the symbols they are manipulating to mean anything in the sense that we humans do. Lycan takes the position that yes, computers do think, and that it is quite possibly only a matter of time before a machine can be created that not only looks and behaves like a person, but also thinks like a person. Therefore, Lycan claims, the suitably programmed machine of this complexity is a person as much as you and I are. I fall more on Lycan's side of the argument.

Words such as "intelligence" and "understanding" have variations in their definitions depending on whom you ask. It is often hard to come up with even a simple definition once one delves into the problems at hand. But, since we as humans (in particular Searle) often try to separate ourselves from computers by saying that we understand the meaning of the symbols we manipulate, it is necessary that I give a useful and accurate meaning to the words (or symbols) I will be using.

I define "thinking" as processing information, with any level of complexity. I include in the thinking category a thermostat makin...

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...a human who's body is almost entirely mechanical) are people? If we cannot distinguish their minds from regular humans', then we have no basis for denying that they have the same basic rights. As for the second question, that is much tougher, and he makes the analogy to animal rights, for even now computers exhibit intelligence that is roughly equal to many animals. However, since I have proved my main point, and run over my page limit, I will now bow out. The area of animal rights is still hotly debated, and we still often disagree on many aspects of human rights. These areas are the subject of many papers, articles, news stories, even organizations. Maybe, if only to prevent a repeat of our confusion morally over our sudden ability to clone complex biological organisms, we should start looking now at the issue of "computer rights". It still sounds strange to me.

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