Artificial Brains and Hybrid Minds

In Vincent C. Müller (ed.), Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence 2017. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. pp. 81-91 (2017)
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The paper develops two related thought experiments exploring variations on an ‘animat’ theme. Animats are hybrid devices with both artificial and biological components. Traditionally, ‘components’ have been construed in concrete terms, as physical parts or constituent material structures. Many fascinating issues arise within this context of hybrid physical organization. However, within the context of functional/computational theories of mentality, demarcations based purely on material structure are unduly narrow. It is abstract functional structure which does the key work in characterizing the respective ‘components’ of thinking systems, while the ‘stuff’ of material implementation is of secondary importance. Thus the paper extends the received animat paradigm, and investigates some intriguing consequences of expanding the conception of bio-machine hybrids to include abstract functional and semantic structure. In particular, the thought experiments consider cases of mind-machine merger where there is no physical Brain-Machine Interface: indeed, the material human body and brain have been removed from the picture altogether. The first experiment illustrates some intrinsic theoretical difficulties in attempting to replicate the human mind in an alternative material medium, while the second reveals some deep conceptual problems in attempting to create a form of truly Artificial General Intelligence.
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