Can a machine know?

Seun Fashoranti

Mr. Rodney


June 2007

Halifax Grammar School

Is it possible for a machine to possess knowledge? To answer such a question two things must be known, what is the definition of a machine, can and knowledge?  The scientific definition of a machine is a device that transmits or alters energy. A machine can be seen as a tool that performs commands. There are simple machines such as pulleys and levers and complex machines such as computers and robots. Can is defined as the ability to do things. Knowledge is defined as justified true belief. In this essay I will attempt to find out if a machine can truly have justified belief.

I believe that humans have always been curious about how things work, which has allowed us to make such advances to in both science and technology. With movies such as The Matrix and I-Robot people have begun to wonder if a machine can have true knowledge. It has been argued that a machine does not know anything simply because it can not break away from its commands. A machine such as a computer, which can be found in business, homes and schools, only has memory and it performs its commands in which we give it. The computer can not break away from this programming so people jump to the conclusion that a machine can not think. They suggest that the ability to know something would involve awareness and consciousness, and if a machine possessed all these qualities then it is no longer a machine. “Awareness does not necessarily imply understanding, just an ability to be conscious of, feel or perceive.” Consciousness is “a sense of one's personal or collective identity, including the attitudes, beliefs, and sensitivities held by or considered characteristic of an individual or group.”   They believe that the machine has now evolved into a life form that possesses free will and imagination, and now does more than perform commands.

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I was recently in an argument with someone who refused to believe that human’s were animals. To which I pointed out that biologists have classified us under the kingdom Anamalia. This did not help my case because the person pointed out that we did not see the world as an animal such as a dog or a lion would. This person then went on to point out that humans have a problem with adultery, murder and using physical force to achieve power. This is when I pointed out that most of those things most people have no problem doing. ...

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