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Can Computers Think?

By Edited Dec 30, 2013 1 1

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Can computers replicate the relationship between the different processes of the human brain and mind?

There are two distinct human functions - the brain processes and the mental processes, which are our thoughts, emotions, cognitions, desires and conciousness.

One view is that if you were to relate these same processes to a computer, then the brain would be the computer itself, the hardware, while the mind would be the software programs that the computer is running. Therefore any computer with the equivalent complexity of our brain and the right program would create a mind with it's own thoughts and feelings. According to Herbert Simon of Carnegie-Mellon University, machines already exist that can think. Although many people find this difficult to comprehend. But that all depends on what you consider thinking to actually be - is thinking just a process of responding to stimilus?
Also consider the definitions of the words 'machine' and 'think'. Aren't we as humans just biological machines? Maybe without batteries and circuit boards but in principle still a kind of machine.

But what about thinking? Derek Melser, author of the book 'The Act of Thinking', asks "What kind of thing is thinking? Is it a mental process? Is it a physiological process of the brain? Is it both? Or is it something different again, an action or activity the person performs?"

In the Cambridge Handbook, Keith Holyoak and Robert Morrison suggest "thinking can be a kind of foresight, a way of seeing into a possible future" or an "assessment of the desirability of an option". It can also be "a kind of mental meadow through which a person might meander on a rainy afternoon, oblivious to the world outside", for example "Albert is lost in thought".

So are these machines actually thinking? Do they really have a mind, and are they conscious of their existence can they be "lost in thought"? Or are they just really complicated calculators?

John Searle uses the Chinese room experiment to explain how even though it may seem like the computer is understanding and responding based on that understanding, it is simply using calculations that give the impression of such.

For his experiment imagine you were alone in a room, only understood English and someone was passing Chinese symbols into the room, and these symbols were, unknown to you, actually questions but you knew the method for manipulating these symbols and you were passing these back out according to that method in the form of answers. Does that mean that you understand Chinese? No. 

When a computer is given some sort of input data it processes the information like a calculator, matching the appropriate numbers or symbols with other symbols specific to the program and then it gives an output or response. Does this mean the computer is actually understanding? The answer again is no.

The difference between humans and even the most complex and advanced computer is that the computer is designed to recognise symbols but it can't place any meaning to these symbols. It can't respond to them with any sort of mental image or perception of what it's actually producing in response.

When we, as humans, understand things it's because the symbols we are given have meaning behind them. For example, would you have any idea how to read the letters of the alphabet without first knowing their meaning? Definitely not.

While a computer may be able to imitate the response of thought, it cannot replicate the method humans use to produce the same output.

 

Can Computers think?
asimo
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Comments

Nov 16, 2012 10:50pm
TanyaTanya
awesome!
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