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can computers think?


abskebabs
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I raise this question after purchasing Morris Kline's book Mathematics and the Physical World, and having read just over 50 pages of it so far. On page 41 the author makes an assertion about the capacity for computers for thought, which he justifies, and I quote:

 

"Since computing machines simulate the actions of nerves and memory, they may give us some clues to the functioning of human brain and of nerve actions. Though these machines are in speed, accuracy and endurance superior to the human brain, one should not infer, as many popular writers are now trying to suggest, that computers will ultimately replace brains. Machines do not think. They perform calculations. The machines to use the word the Greeks used at the beginning of this chapter, do logistica but not arithmetica. Nevertheless, we undoubtedly have in the machine a useful model for the study of some functions of the brain."

 

The position of the author's seems similiar to Roger Penrose's but better explained.

 

My questions are; Do you agree or disagree with the author? If so, why? My guess is someone like bascule may be hot on the heels of a thread like this:D

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So then, what is thought? Is it so far from a series of calculations to get from some observation to some conclusion?

Hell, I don't know, so I'm quite happy to sit on the fence for this one.

 

If the author can give a really clear definition of thought, and of what computers can do1, and show that they are different, then he'll have a valid point.

 

1. Note the conditional tense, it's worth thinkning into the near future on this one.

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The position of the author's seems similiar to Roger Penrose's but better explained.

 

Better explained? At least Penrose posited a real argument, albeit a fallacious one. That sounds little better than "The mind can't be computational. It can't! Why? I dunno. I just can't imagine my conscious experience being a computational effect! Seems wrong. In my gut. Instinct."

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Define thought first.

 

I'm being influenced by I, Robot because that's what I'm reading now. So I'd say, yes, computers (robots) may be capable of thought. I think far more logically than we hope to be.

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Better explained? At least Penrose posited a real argument, albeit a fallacious one. That sounds little better than "The mind can't be computational. It can't! Why? I dunno. I just can't imagine my conscious experience being a computational effect! Seems wrong. In my gut. Instinct."

I suppose I shouldn't have used the words "better explained. Instead "easier to understand" would have fit better. What Morris Kline describes as "logistica" means the mundane or trivial calculations that need to be carried out to reach a certain result. This is something all computers can do, once given the right set of instructions or software to carry out a certain task.

 

Arithmetica is defined as a study of the concept of number, its principles, and itd application to nature. Is it incorrect to assume that this kind of activity is quite different to the process of logistica, and would require something more than calculations to be able to understand the context of numbers? If this is wrong, are you suggesting that this kind of understanding only results as a subtle side effect of calculative and computational processes that evolve in the brain in the first place?

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