What Computers Can’t Do…

In 1964 the famous painter Pablo Picasso stated in an interview for The Paris Review: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers”

The world famous spanish artist referred to early computers and their ability to calculate. This says more about Picasso than computers because it indicates that he didn’t think that numerical calculation was important, apparently he thought some kind of intuitive calculation was more important. Maybe he was appealing to a romantic point of view of creativity in order to maintain his artistic genius and supernatural charisma… A popular belief working for the benefit of an essentialist perspective of the systems that generate original solutions.

One year later, in 1965, the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus was hired by RAND Corporation where he wrote “Alchemy and AI” a paper ridiculizing Artificial Intelligence and this new field´s researchers by comparing it´s theoretical foundation with mythology by predicting that there were limits beyond which AI would not progress. Dreyfus -whose critique was based on the insights of modern continental philosophers- argued that human intelligence and expertise depend primarily on unconscious instincts rather than conscious symbolic manipulation, and that these unconscious skills could never be captured in formal rules.

Some decades later a new paradigm was created by the name of the Chinese Room Argument. First presented by philosopher John Searle in his paper “Minds, Brains, and Programs” (1980) this paradigm holds that a program cannot give a computer a “mind” regardless of how intelligently or human-like the program may make the computer behave. Nonetheless, pioneer computing scientist Alan Turing anticipated Searle’s line of argument in 1950 when he noted that people never consider the problem of other minds when dealing with each other. Under this point of view we should not intend to solve the problem of other minds (for machines or people) but this argument has been widely discussed in the years.

In philosophy of science the Computational Theory of Mind names a view that the human mind or the human brain (or both) is an information processing system and that thinking is a form of computing. The theory was proposed in its modern form by Hilary Putnam in 1961, and despite being vigorously disputed in the 1990s (by John Searle for example) the view is common in modern cognitive psychology.

This point of view holds that the brain is a computer and the mind is the result of the program that this biological organ runs, therefore this machine derives output representations of the world from input representations and internal memory.

Unless we want to live a life full of Cartesanian Dualism where dichotomy between mind and body (natural and artificial) serves as an open road to ignorance, we better understand the importante of this theory that lies in the heart of the engineers who are giving shape to the new inventions of Cognitive Computing. Because the coming posthuman age will change our known categories up to a point that we won’t able to find our way back to an idyllic state of mind…

*(Pictures: hypepotamus.com & quotefancy.com).

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