Intelligence as We Know It

by Chad Ellison

There is a bit of fuss among scientists and philosophers regarding the possibility of producing an artificially intelligent being that is actually intelligent. It might seem pessimistic to say that human beings are not even close to being able to manufacture genuine intelligence, but that is my thesis. This is not an attack on technology or on the remarkable advancements that have been made in computer science; rather, my contention is that none of these advancements come close to instantiating intelligence as we know it.

While there is no doubt that artificial intelligence resembles actual intelligence, to believe that it can actually be intelligent is predicated on the assumption that intelligence is reducible to a mere pattern and collection of physical parts. If intelligence is reducible to physical material, we might be able to manufacture it. The problem with this idea, however, is that if so called intelligence were reducible to physical material, it would be so far removed from our understanding of intelligence that we would have no business calling it that—it would not be intelligence in so far as we conceive it as rational ability. If all that we call intelligence is reducible to matter in motion, then there is nothing rational about it; all thoughts would find a comprehensive explanation in physical cause and effect. There is no good reason to think that the physical hardware of our brains would be more likely to produce rational conclusions than to believe that a stone rolling down a hill would be more likely to veer to the right rather than the left. Consequently, the idea that actual intelligence can be manufactured with mere physical parts leads to the destruction of all human intelligence rather than the construction of artificial intelligence.

There is another reason why our best technology is not close to being genuinely intelligent; human intelligence is a different kind of thing than mere input and computational processes…


Intelligence as We Know It | Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.