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Egnor: Why Machines Will Never Think

David Klinghoffer


For me, one of the highlights of the Bradley Center launch was meeting our friend and contributor Michael Egnor. While for some years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with Dr. Egnor, the distinguished neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, I had never met him face-to-face.

His remarks at the panel discussion last Wednesday night were excellent as you’d expect. Get a taste at the new Mind Matters site. The gist is this:

The hallmark of human thought is meaning, and the hallmark of computation is indifference to meaning. That is, in fact, what makes thought so remarkable and also what makes computation so useful. You can think about anything, and you can use the same computer to express your entire range of thoughts because computation is blind to meaning.

Thought is not merely not computation. Thought is the antithesis of computation. Thought is precisely what computation is not. Thought is intentional. Computation is not intentional.

Computers do computation, and “Thought is the antithesis of computation.” That is why hype about computers achieving consciousness is such baloney. Which doesn’t mean that people will not abuse the power of AI to hurt each other, and hurt themselves. Oh, that is going to be bad, as Egnor also elaborated at the Bradley event. More on that when we have the video ready for you.

Mike Egnor is a remarkably clear thinker and writer, a scientist with a rare philosophical and spiritual sensitivity. Again, please go read his comments in full at Mind Matters.

Photo: Michael Egnor at the inauguration of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, by Nathan Jacobson.