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Seeing James the Red Engine cry, prompted me to ask whether a machine could ever actually experience emotion, which raises the centuries-old philosophical question: Can machines have minds?

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Title: Can Machines have Minds? Part of the syllabus to which it relates: The Core Theme-Could animals or machines be persons? Word Count: 1644 words Source material: Picture and text extract from 'Troublesome Trucks' James the Red Engine by the Rev.W.Awdry. Seeing "James the Red Engine"1 cry, prompted me to ask whether a machine could ever actually experience emotion, which raises the centuries-old philosophical question: Can machines have minds? The immediate, instinctive reply to this question by nearly all people is a resounding 'No', and people develop a variety of reasons to maintain the distinctiveness of the human (and some 'higher' animal) ability to think. Is it just vanity that provokes us to argue against the idea of machines having minds? Or is it conceivable that machines have the power to think in the same way that we do? In order to answer this question it is necessary to determine what the human mind really is and for this we need to examine both dualist and monist theories. The problem here is how to ask if machineshave minds when we are unsure of whether we have them ourselves. I therefore propose to answer the question, Can machines think like us? Let us first examine the natural instinctive argument that most will support. It seems illogical to believe that machines have minds, as indeed we have trouble projecting minds onto everything other than our own species and animals. ...read more.


Every so often a piece of paper with Chinese writing is passed through the letterbox. The rulebook explains how to process the writing, it tells the man to copy certain characters onto the note pad. Thebook gives a code informing the man what should be written according to what is on the paper initially sent through the letter box. Once he has decoded the message he sends the reply back through the letterbox as an answer to the questions he received, obeying the rules contained in the book. As time goes by the man becomes more and more accomplished at his job. To a Chinese onlooker it would seem that the person in the room was a fluent Chinese speaker. Searle compares the activity of this man to the activity of a machine or computer. The man did not need to understand the Chinese to be able to give a perfect answer. In this way the computer does not understand or comprehend what it is doing, it only processes information. Searle said that the man (and hence machine) lacked 'intentionality' and possessed only a syntactical ability as opposed to a semantic one. This means that the machine is unable to be aware of the meaning of the information it processes even though it uses correct grammar to communicate with. Simply producing output in response to input according to certain rules does not constitute human thought. ...read more.


Such an approach is taken by those who see the mind as an 'emergent property' of the physical composition of the body (specifically brain). A single molecule of water could not be wet or hot or cold; it is only on combining with many millions of molecules in a complex bundle that properties emerge that we associate with water. So with the mind - our freedom and intentionality emerge from the very complex arrangement of our organic bodies, which are unique to humans and animals and could not be shared by machines. For most people using an argument from common sense it feels that our minds are free and unattached to our physical bodies. I therefore conclude that a purely physical man-made machine can never have a real mind of its own. And thus in reality it would make it impossible for James the Red Engine's "thought"4 and emotions to actually exist. Footnotes: 1 James the Red Engine. The Rev.W.Awdry. Edmund Ward (Publishers) Ltd 1945. Surrey 1984. 2 Sited at http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/turing.htm. 12th March 2005. Lady Lovelace's Objection. 3 A. M. Turing, Computing machinery and intelligence. In: D. R. Hofstadter and D. C. Dennett, The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1982). Sited athttp://jimmy. Qmuc.ac.uk/jisew/ewv22n1/REFS.HTM. 12th March 2005 4 James the Red Engine. The Rev.W.Awdry. Edmund Ward (Publishers) Ltd 1945. ...read more.

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