Alex Wu, Juan
Computers, a technological advancement that were once only available to the
military and business firms, eventually became a big role player for everyday life for the
common man. Without computers, there would be no social media, no video games
(consoles are technically computers too), no online shopping , etc. Ever since the 70’s,
the computers have improved in a number of ways over the years: a decrease in overall
size, faster performance via the processors, higher resolution graphics, and other unique
features such as Cortana from windows 10 which is an intelligent personal assistant for
the computer. They have come quite a long way from solving basic math to the more
complex tasks such as programming.
As computers become more and more efficient and advanced, they will eventually
take over most of the jobs that were initially meant for humans. This somewhat implies
that computers will eventually be smarter than us. But can computers truly think? The
answer really depends on perspective, and by that I mean what thinking truly is according
to the audience.
The mechanist view argues that computers are just as smart as us humans and
therefore is a possible cause for people to lose their jobs to computers someday. It is
blatantly obvious that computers are much more efficient at completing tasks given to
them, but saying that they think are questionable. People will argue that thinking requires
much more complicated characteristics than computers are capable of having. There are
limits and conditions that a computer must meet in order to complete a task. Without
these specific information given by humans on how to complete said task, a computer is
deemed as nothing. Computers simply do not have these problem solving skills that are in
the same level as the human brain, which eventually adapts to the given situation. If a
computer does not contain the information required for the subject, it simply cannot
obtain what it needs on its own. It is just not capable of doing so.
Recently scientists developed an artificial intelligence that has beaten the
European champion in a board game called Go. Having a checker like board with black
and white stones, the possibilities of making a move are more than that of chess. The A.I.
has data inside of all the different scenarios in recorded history and was programmed to
make the most optimal move based on those given scenarios. However, without that data
given by a human, it would have been impossible for it to make a move let alone a good
one. Computers requires the input of a user and without it, it is useless. This argument
goes to show that computers are not capable of thinking.
As for the argument that computers can think, let us say that I have given you a
simple math equation. By nature we are to spit out an answer, but before we give the
answer, we had to think for the answer. Even the simplest of equations one must think
before they give the answer because the question is processed through the brain and
returns something. This phenomenon is further supported by John Searle, who thought of
the concept known as the Chinese Room. The concept behind the Chinese room
experiment is that a man that has absolutely no knowledge of the Chinese language is put
into a room with no windows except for a tiny slot and is given cheat sheets on how to
interpret the unknown calligraphy he is given and how to respond. Searle thinks that the
man would most likely pass as a fluent speaker because of the responses he made from
the cheat sheet. He then relates this back to the computers saying that no matter how
advanced these programs are at “thinking” like humans, they do not understand the
meaning behind the conversation. Searle only sees it as that the computers can only give
set outputs for set inputs.
Furthermore on the topic that computers can "think" like humans, it by no means
can feel human emotion nor be able to have the ability to experience human sensations
such as love. I have yet to believe that our technology world has yet to produce such an
advancement. Here I am arguing that the way machines "think" is similar to that of a
human but to an extent. Computers were designed to that of a human brain. They both
contain memories and are exclusive in their own way; in this case a computer has
different programs and languages within itself. Computers are efficient at using data
given to them to solve problems, but humans can do that also. We can retrieve and
store certain memories (some people naturally have photographic memory) in which
we solve problems with or to just process our daily lives.
In addition, everyone takes a part in determining each other’s personality via
influencing each other throughout our lives in a positive and/or negative way. Keep in
mind that the way the brain and computer works. We learn through experience that we
have gained over the years. Computers are in a way similar, they process information that
it has gained over a certain period to customize itself to the point that it deems itself more
to the user’s preferences. A prime example would be how websites like Ebay keep in
record of what the users look at and advertises said items throughout various other
websites that the user enters.
John Searle would probably argue with these statements because he thinks that
computers are no more than machines that only simply give an output for every input.
But when we think about it, the human brain is no different from that. We have our own
“programmed” reactions to a certain scenarios. An example would be going back to our
first week of philosophy class, when we address the question “what is the meaning of
life?” and interpreting it as “how ought should one live?”. According to Charles Darwin,
all living being should aim at survival, and via our instincts we react whenever our lives
are in jeopardy. Although a computer may not possess natural instincts like humans and
animals, they are still capable of having reactions to certain phenomena once it has been
programmed by a human.
The argument of whether or not that a if a computer is capable of thinking or not
may be one of the more bigger debates because the answer varies to the point in which
the answer can go either way. It is simply a matter of perspective. A computer may not be
able to think because it depends on the input of the user in order for it to give a resoponse
of any kind. A computer may also be able to think because thinking is a matter of
processing information and/or using that information to give a certain response, in which
a computer has the capability of doing so. It is a matter of what the individual defines
what “thinking” truly is and the characteristics that fit in the criteria of thinking. In my
personal perspective, I sincerely believe that the computer has advanced enough
throughout time to the point that their "thinking" process is similar to that of humans.
The certain characteristics that computers carry with them during their thinking process is
what makes them "think" in the ways similar to how humans think. We humans have
certainly come a long way of putting together some circuit boards, microchips, and a few
pieces of scrap metal to form an end result so unique and complex that it can perform
similarly to that of a human brain. The extent of their capabilities and their untapped
potential in the near future is still yet to be known and that the possibilities are endless.
The sky is truly the limit.