A Modal Defence of Strong AI

In Dermot Moran Stephen Voss (ed.), The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy. The Philosophical Society of Turkey. pp. 127-131 (2007)
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John Searle has argued that the aim of strong AI of creating a thinking computer is misguided. Searle’s Chinese Room Argument purports to show that syntax does not suffice for semantics and that computer programs as such must fail to have intrinsic intentionality. But we are not mainly interested in the program itself but rather the implementation of the program in some material. It does not follow by necessity from the fact that computer programs are defined syntactically that the implementation of them cannot suffice for semantics. Perhaps our world is a world in which any implementation of the right computer program will create a system with intrinsic intentionality, in which case Searle’s Chinese Room Scenario is empirically (nomically) impossible. But, indeed, perhaps our world is a world in which Searle’s Chinese Room Scenario is empirically (nomically) possible and that the silicon basis of modern day computers are one kind of material unsuited to give you intrinsic intentionality. The metaphysical question turns out to be a question of what kind of world we are in and I argue that in this respect we do not know our modal address. The Modal Address Argument does not ensure that strong AI will succeed, but it shows that Searle’s challenge on the research program of strong AI fails in its objectives.
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