philosophy 1301


Topic 4 continued: Can machines be said to ‘think’? We know they can ‘compute’, and we know that brains also ‘compute’. So what is the difference between a computer and a brain? If Physicalism is true, could we build a machine that could be said to have a ‘mind’ like a human?
Required reading:
3) Alan Turing, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ 
Actions(Excerpted from Mind (Links to an external site.), 1950, 49: 433-460, annotated by)
3) John Searle,’Minds, Brains & Computers’ 
Actions(Excerpted from The Behavioral & Brain Sciences (Links to an external site.), 1980, Vol. 3, annotated by )
One issue connected with the question of whether the mind is, or is not simply the same thing as the brain, is the question of whether a machine could ever be said to be thinking. If the mind is really just, at bottom, a physical effect caused by the brain (which is a physical object), then it might seem that there is no reason why another physical object – a machine – might not be built that can do the same. But if Descartes is right, and the mind is a different kind of stuff, i.e. a special kind of mental stuff, and not physical or material at all, then it would follow that machines probably will not be able to be said to be ‘thinking’.
But what is ‘thinking’ after all? Take note that it is different to feeling i.e. having emotions. At some kind of basic level, thinking is just ‘following logic’ right? Kind of like calculating. If this is the definition of ‘thinking’ we are working with, then, again, it seems no reason why we should not describe machines as ‘thinking’. It doesn’t need to have anything to do with whether machines can have emotions or be creative etc. Those are different questions to the ‘thinking’ question. Moreover, it might, in the future, turn out to be really hard to know if something is an automaton or android, or a human being.
As we create more and more sophisticated machines, and develop materials so that we can build robots that look exactly like humans – how are we going to be able to tell if they are ‘thinking’ or ‘conscious’ or not? If machines eventually are to be able to be built using biological materials – skin, tissues, blood, etc – then looking inside of them will not tell us if they are ‘thinking’ or ‘conscious’…..Watch the following required video.

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Prompt: Turing devised the ‘Imitation Game’ as a way to answer the question ‘can a machine think?’ Is Turing right that someday, there will be machines  or androids, that think or are conscious like humans? How will we be able to tell?

Please write a minimum 200 word response to the prompt; and then write a 100 word response to one of your fellow students’ posts. that is the link for the required video.


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