Could a computer have a mind?

Introduction to Philosophy, Coursera, (December 10, 2013).

This question is difficult to answer, first because the meaning and structure of mind is not scientifically obvious. Technologically we do not find how is exact relation of brain functions and mental states. Secondary when we ask the question about possibility of computer with a mind, it is not clear what we expect from our computers. But in order to neglect this incommensurability, I try to figure out what should be mind if it is possible to have a computer with a mind.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of mind is:

"A mind is the set of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, and memory—a characteristic of humans, but which also may apply to other life forms."

I will follow my discussion in base of this simple definition with answering following questions:

  1. Is mind only the property of living form?
  2. What is cognition? What abilities of mind is necessary for computer to have a mind?

1. Is mind only the property of living forms?

According to lectures there are two ideas about mind, dualism which means the mental activity is distinct from physical body and physicalism which means the brain is responsibly for mental activities. Lets put each idea in perspective and find what the consequences are.

First consider the dualism is proved and the spiritual existence of mind is the root of our mental activity. This means the living body contains a living element comes from other source as chemical and physiological reactions of body, I call it spirit. So in order to making a computer with the mind we should simulate the spirit or transfer a spirit in the machine, which is interesting idea for science fictions. What is obvious about dualism is physical study of spirit is not well-define and there is no idea about measurement or formalism for such a phenomena. So only way to develop or analytically flowing this idea will be using metaphysical arguments. So if you accept this idea there will no be good evidence for ability of production of computer with a mind.

The physicalism considers the mind as the result of chemical and physiological reactions of complex brain. The complexity of brain is from natural evolution of brain and neural system in living forms. So the mind is rooted in material properties, maybe quantum information or electrical integrity of neural system. We know recent computers could store data (memory), following instructions include judgment and even we succeed in developing machine learning algorithms. Recently, artificial intelligence is a subject of computer science and mathematics research. Recent developments help us to have processors with basic abilities which guide us to more complicated thinking machines. These developments with the uncertainty principle in quantum physics make us to have this idea the main roots of life and mind is from the principal rules of nature which could be came out from other way of evolution, this time human made one. So physicalism indirectly provide this idea of computer with a mind could be made.

2. What is cognition?

The emotional state of an individual is called cognition. According to Wikipedia, the definition of cognition is:

"Cognition is those process by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes the attention of working memory, producing and comprehending language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making."

In common sense, there is a kind of direct relation between mind and cognition, the person and it's ego. The essence of mind when find itself activity is known as cognition, "a group of mental processes". This cognition should have a set of abilities which should be ended with the decision making. This decision should be identical for each mind and not based on a certain modelling system of evaluation, like what we have in recent automation technologies. Technically it means if there is a degree of freedom it should made the decision based on itself motivations, called emotional state! This emotional state is what is necessary for these computers. Next unanswered question will be, what will be the root of their identities and emotional state?

For me answer is not clear but it is more likely one day we will have the computers with a mind. Maybe they are not based on recent generation of computers. Maybe it is result of intersection between biotechnology and electronics or quantum computing is the foundation stone of cognitive computers.

Peer Grade: 17/21