"Computation, Among Other Things, is Beneath Us"

(1995) Minds and Machines 4: 469-488

by Selmer Bringsjord


What's computation? The received answer is that computation is a computer at work, and a computer at work is that which can be modelled as a Turing machine at work. Unfortunately, as John Searle has recently argued, and as others have agreed, the received answer appears to imply that AI and Cog Sci are a royal waste of time. The argument here is alarmingly simple: AI and Cog Sci (of the "Strong" sort, anyway) are committed to the view that cognition is computation (or brains are computers); but all processes are computations (or all physical things are computers); so AI and Cog Sci are positively silly.

I refute this argument herein, in part by defining the locutions 'x is a computer' and 'c is a computation' in a way that blocks Searle's argument but exploits the hard-to-deny link between What's Computation? and the theory of computation. However, I also provide, at the end of this essay, an argument which, it seems to me, implies not that AI and Cog Sci are silly, but that they're based on a form of computation that is well "beneath" human persons.

Key Snippets from the Paper (out of context, of course)