Publication 834

Bishop J. M. (2009) Why computers can't feel pain. Minds and Machines 19(4): 507–516. Fulltext at
“Strong computationalism” holds that any suitably programmed computer instantiates genuine conscious mental states purely in virtue of carrying out a specific series of computations. The argument presented herein is a simple development of that originally presented in Putnam’s “Representation & Reality”, which if correct, has important implications for Turing machine functionalism and the prospect of “conscious” machines. In the paper, instead of seeking to develop Putnam’s claim that, “everything implements every finite state automata”, I will try to establish the weaker result that “everything implements the specific machine Q on a particular input set (x)”. Then, equating Q (x) to any putative AI program, I will show that conceding the “strong AI” thesis for Q (crediting it with mental states and consciousness) opens the door to a vicious form of panpsychism whereby all open systems, (e.g., grass, rocks, etc.), must instantiate conscious experience and hence that disembodied minds lurk everywhere. Relevance: This paper critiques the computational accounts of mind and cognition using a construction borrowed from Putnam.


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