Monday, October 19, 2009

Why The Mind is Not Like a Computer

Ari Schulman dissects the metaphor and finds it wanting:

Properly understood, the first question underlying the AI debate is: Can the properties of the mind be completely described on their own terms as an algorithm?...

Recall that an algorithm has a definite start and end state and consists of a set of well-defined rules for transitioning from start state to end state. As we have already seen, it was the explicit early claim of AI proponents that the answer to this question was yes: the properties of the mind, they believed, could be expressed algorithmically (or “procedurally,” to use a more general term). But the AI project has thus far failed to prove this answer, and AI researchers seem to have understood this failure without acknowledging it.

The founding goal of AI has been all but rejected,
a rejection that carries great significance for the central presumption of the project but that has gone largely unremarked. As an empirical hypothesis, the question of whether the mind can be completely described procedurally remains open (as all empirical hypotheses must), but it should be acknowledged that the failure thus far to achieve this goal suggests that the answer to the question is no—and the longer such a failure persists, the greater our confidence must be in that answer.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

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