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> Footnote on Artificial Intelligence

Footnote on Artificial Intelligence

While reading the article Minds, Brains, and Programs, I realized I've been using the word “mind” in a way that is likely to be misleading, especially in conjunction with the analogy between minds and computers.

There are two problems, really. The first is the question of what one means by “mind”. For me it is most useful to draw the line between memes and the mind, with the mind as the hardware in which the memes exist. However, in discussions of consciousness it seems more useful to draw the line between the mind as an abstract consciousness and the brain as the hardware in which it exists. Thus, depending on the context, the word “mind” may or may not refer to the substrate. I'm not even sure how to reconcile the two contexts—how, for example, does consciousness fit into the meme picture?

The second problem is that my analogy between minds and computers sounds a lot like a particular view of artificial intelligence, known as the strong AI hypothesis. Here's a description, from Minds, Brains, and Programs.

But according to strong AI, the computer is not merely a tool in the study of the mind; rather, the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind, in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states.

I used to think this hypothesis was obviously true, but nowadays I'm not so sure. Right at the moment I'm more inclined toward the idea that a digital computer (Turing machine) might simply be the wrong kind of substrate for consciousness. It might be possible to build special hardware that would support consciousness, but it would not be Turing-equivalent.


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  Don't Fight Your Mind

@ June (2000)