An Analysis Of Can Computers Think By John Searle

1054 Words 5 Pages
In “Can Computers Think?” John Searle claims that by definition, computers cannot think, nor will they ever, no matter how much technology manages to advance in the future. Searle defends his claim by providing an outline and an interesting thought experiment. His work begins by simply introducing the prevailing views concerning artificial intelligence during the time period. Many individuals thought of human brains and digital computers as analogous due to something known as the Turing Test. The premise of the Turing Test is that if a computer is able to fool a human in a given situation, then the computer is intelligent. The example given is that there are three rooms and each room is connected to the others by a computer screen and keyboard. …show more content…
He believes that a digital computer does not resemble a mind because it is being run by a program, which is strictly syntactical, whereas minds have both syntax and semantical content. To simplify, syntax refers to the form or structure of a code or sentence whereas semantics refers to the meanings of those codes and sentences. Therefore, even though a digital computer may have a complex series of 0s and 1s which create the images on one’s computer screen, the digital computer does not understand what those 0s and 1s stand for or mean. All the computer “knows” is the code, not the content. Searle goes on to explain this even further through an outline. His first statement in the outline is that “brains cause minds” meaning that the mental processes that we consider to make up a mind are caused entirely by processes going on inside the brain. He follows that up with “syntax is not sufficient for semantics”. That claim is then applied to digital computers: “computer programs are entirely defined by their formal, or syntactical structures”. The next part of the outline is that “Minds have mental contents; specifically, they have semantic contents”. By connecting the preceding sentences, Searle’s breakdown leads us to the conclusion that just because a digital computer has a program (syntax) that does not …show more content…
It is lacking a key element, that human minds have, which would enable the computer to exercise thoughts. Human brains can associate words with their meanings and a digital computer running from a program will never be able to make those associations. And since those associations are the basic foundation of thinking and understanding, according to Searle, a digital computer does not and cannot think. Searle also makes it clear that this conclusion is not the result of a lack of technological advances. He believes that no matter how much technology improves over the years, digital computers will never resemble a human mind, unless they begin to have a biological component. It can be programmed to resemble the mind, but a computer, by definition, cannot have the experience of thought like a mind

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