.. g to Searle, it has this mind because its brain is complex enough, or in his terms, there is enough water to make it wet (DesAutels Lecture 6-14-00). I would now like to ask, did that bacterial cell have a mind, the one we started with? NO. Did the slug have a mind? NO, it too lacked a brain. Do the cells in a human have a mind? Remember they themselves have no brains, so they cant have mind, but collected together as a whole they do, and the human is attributed with mind.
So the question still remains, Can a computer have a mind? It is made up of parts, like the cells that make up a human, and these parts on their own lack mind (like the cogs in a clock. Just as an aside, the clock that Searle doesnt believe is complex enough to have mind is equivocal to the slug in biological terms) (DesAutels Lecture 6-14-00). So we, like the bacteria, go back to the drawing board, in search of another way to obtain mind, complexity. And what we return with is something as complex as a human, a computer. Now who is to argue the complexity here? Searles argument falls short because it works both for him, in the case of the clock, and against him as time moves on and computers become more complex, comparable to the biological analogy. The problem he faces is the more complex a computer may become, the more of an emerging mind it may show.
But back to biology for just a moment, humans too are made up of parts, cells, that do not know what they are doing, in the sense they are unaware while a combination of these cells into an entire human, is aware. Using this analogy, it can also be said that the computer components are not aware, in the sense that the cells arent aware, but the computer, a collection of parts, (like the human of cells) can be aware. There is a technology that has a learning capacity based on its awareness of a situation. The example we will be looking at here is used in car computers that are “aware” of how the driver drives. If she is a consistent driver, it will set itself to obtain the maximum gas mileage.
When a new driver gets behind the wheel of the car and drives very inconsistently in speed, (like myself on my way to this class?), the computer then sets itself to obtain the maximum torque (Baker Interview 6-14-00). This technology has a bit of awareness, doesnt it? Lets now move away from the biology aspect in specific terms and move more towards a problem that has been raised. Return with me if you will, to the image of your first love laying in a filed of wildflowers. It has been suggested that one cannot program a computer to be entirely like a human in all of its behaviors etc., due to the fact that the storage capacity of a computer is no where near the size it would need to be to store the information needed to be completely human. In other words, a computer cant possibly remember its first love laying in a filed of wildflowers, because computers dont know what wildflowers are, or what a field is, and they dont know what a first love is, in the same way we do. They point to the human brain, and take particular notice of the incredible amount of storage space. The brain takes in every second of every day and stores it for later access that can be retrieved when the information is desired or under hypnosis (DesAutels Lecture 6-12-00).
How can a computer take in this much information and store it? Although it is true to date that storing this amount of information hasnt yet been achieved in a computer, it may soon be able to be done. Just look at how far we have come from just ten years ago in the technology industry. Even in the age of the compact disk, we have already seen the making of a mini disk, a smaller version of a CD that stores just as much information, if not more. It is only a matter of time before information storage will no longer be seen as a limiting factor. I would like to close with some thoughts from Thomas Nagel.
He insists that although we can be told what it is like to be something else, we cannot truly know what it is like. He uses the example of a bat, claiming “that there is something it is like to be that organism” (Nagel 391), but that we will never know what it is like to be a bat. We can be told what it is like, but we will never experience what a bat sees, or what it hears (DesAutels Lecture6-16-00). He calls this subjective experience, and no matter how hard we try to explain what it may be like, even to be ourselves, no one will understand, because it is our own unique point of view (DesAutels Lecture 6-16-00). The problem with science is that it is objective, you can only learn about it, but you can never truly experience it (DesAutels Lecture 6-16-00).
You may be wondering just what this it is, consciousness. You have consciousness and you can tell me about it, but I cant prove that you have consciousness, the same way that we cant prove a computer has consciousness. But we cant say that a computer cant have consciousness, either, because no proof can be provided either way. So we still sit, wondering if a computer can have a mind, most things I have pointed to here would indicate yes, a computer could have a mind. But the truth of it is, as Nagel had claimed, that we would never know. A computer may already have a mind that is unlike our own, so we cant explain it, and we dont understand it, but that doesnt meant the computer cant have a mind.
So yes, I believe that a computer can have a mind, and one-day, we may better understand this. Bibliography Baker, Brent, Electronics Engineer and Sales Rep. Interview on 6-14-00. DesAutels, Peggy Dr. Lecture dates from 6-12-00 through 6-16-00. Nagel, Thomas.
“What is it Like to be a Bat?” A Historical Introduction to Philosophy of Mind. Peter A. Morton. Orchard Park; Broadview Press, 1997.