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
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Central to this definition is the idea of taking in data and making a decision (even if the decision is to do nothing). I realize that this definition of thinking is a bit broader than common usage, but I do not think that it is outside of acceptable limits. The act of decision making, and limiting the decision making to data, is what separates my definition from Searle's amusing idea of a thinking stomach. The stomach takes in matter and physically processes it in a certain set way. However, any changes in how the stomach treats this matter are the result of the brain sending out decisions it has made by processing the data the stomach has sent to it.

I define "understanding" as the more complex process of making associations between a symbol and other symbols, as well as between a symbol and the actual thing it represents. Therefore, for something to understand a symbol, it must have stored memory about the symbol, and be able to make associations between the symbol and other related things. Depth of understanding relates to the quantity and quality of stored references (as well as to quality of perception), and the complexity of the associations made with them. For example, the first time I heard the term "web page", I had no understanding of the term (term being synonymous with symbol). After seeing one on a computer on a TV news