Artificial Intelligence and Natural Man

Artificial Intelligence and Natural Man

Artificial Intelligence and Natural Man

Artificial Intelligence and Natural Man


Artificial intelligence is not the stud y of computers, but of intelligence in thought and action. Computers are its tools, because its theories are expressed as computer programs that enable machines to do things that would require intelligence if done by people.

This book describes artificial intelligence in a way that stresses its human relevance. I have used plain language as far as possible, and have entirely avoided mathematical and formal symbolisms. No specific expertise is presupposed, although readers with psychological or philosophical interests will find many points relating to already familiar issues. In particular, I have not assumed any previous acquaintance with artificial intelligence, nor even any knowledge of programming. So that the reader may gradually develop a sense of what a program is and what a computer can do with it, I have tried to describe programs that do interesting things in a way that allows an understanding of these matters to deepen progressively throughout the book. Later chapters build on earlier ones in the sense that they may continue discussion of examples introduced previously, so the book is best read as a whole, from beginning to end.

I have selected for discussion a number of computer programs likely to be of interest to readers with psychological or philosophical concerns but no programming experience. These programs throw light on the nature of human personality, belief, language and communication, perception, learning, creativity, and problem solving. So that they may provide a starting point from which to progress into detailed study of the programming literature, I have given guidance to further primary sources in the notes. And so that work in artificial intelligence may be related to its wider human context, I have indicated some of the relevant psychological and philosophical literature.

Above all, I have tried to convey a sense of the relevance of artificial intelligence to the understanding of natural man. Contrary to what most people assume, this field of research has a potential for counteracting the dehumanizing influence of natural science, for suggesting solutions to many traditional problems in the philosophy of mind, and for illuminating the hidden complexities of human thinking and personal psychology. The common view that machine research must tend to display us humiliatingly to ourselves as "mere clockwork" is false. The more widely this is realized, the less of a threat will artificial intelligence present to humane conceptions of society.

Brighton, Sussex
August 1976


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