DO COMPUTERS THINK?
DO COMPUTERS THINK/
D. R. khashaba
Loose language leads to loose thinking and loose thinking leads to erroneous conclusions that can be highly pernicious. Philosophers from Plato to Schopenhauer have been warning us against this danger and yet we have been blithely speaking of thinking machines and talking of uncanny future possibilities. So let us pause for a while and rather than asking whether machines can think or whether machines will ever be able to think, let us consider the seemingly banal question: Do computers think? Marginally, let me remark that we will go far astray when we haughtily dismiss banal questions.
Do computers think? Computers started as simple arithmetical calculators functioning mechanically. Despite all the astounding development in complexity and speed, computers are still machines that work out (process) the outcome of inbuilt relations in a closed system. Even the computers that are still being planned will only spout out what you feed into them.
Most of the ‘thinking’ we humans do is of that nature, mechanical. Even scientific thinking, except for the rare creative insight of genius, is mostly putting one and one together. Stephen Hawking when thinking purely in terms of the concepts of physics can endorse the strictly nonsensical idea of time travel (see “Stephen Hawking’s Bad Metaphysics”); when he breaks through that closed artificial conceptual universe, he wisely warns us against the calamitous results of pollution and against the stupidity of world leaders who can easily plunge us in a nuclear holocaust.
True thinking initiates, originates, creates. We truly think only when we think creatively and then we are hardly aware of ‘doing’ any thinking. It is not our established conceptual system that is then at work but our inherent intelligence, so that we may say in a seeming paradox that we think best when we think least. This is analogous to what I have repeatedly stated in discussing free will, that we are truly free not when we deliberate but only when we act spontaneously.
To conclude: Does a computer think? Only if a computer of its own free will can say: je pense, donc je suis. So let us no more speak of thinking machines but only of computing machines.
D. R. Khashaba
March 12, 2017