Andrew And The Mind

  • Category: Philosophy
  • Words: 1281
  • Grade: 85
Andrew and the Mind

        "Bicentennial Man" was written by Isaac Asimov to celebrate America's bicentennial in 1976. Originally planned as the first in a three part series, the story ended up as a standalone piece. We are all better off, as it stands "Bicentennial Man" is perhaps the greatest science fiction piece written. However, the question before us is not whether or not this is a great story, that much is obvious, the question is "does Andrew have a mind?" I would argue that Andrew certainly has a mind. He could certainly pass the Turing test as well as overcome the Chinese room problem. He fulfills Searle's criteria that only certain types of machines can think, mainly ones with internal causal powers. Andrew also displays several characteristics that are only ascribed to human minds. With all this evidence, it is evident that Andrew did, in fact, have a mind.
        Andrew most definitely has a mind. Firstly, Andrew could pass the Turing test. The Turing test, devised by A. M. Turing, is the definitive test for determining whether or not a machine has mind. The test, called by Turing the "Imitation Game," consists of 3 players. One player is an interrogator and the other two, being of opposite sex, are placed in a separate room. The object of the game is for the interrogator to determine which player is the female and which is the male. Extrapolating the game out to include a human and a computer, the object then becomes which player is human and which is a computer. The key for the computer is to be able to imitate human behavior. Now, if Andrew was placed in the room, could he successfully imitate human behavior? Yes, he could, and did. While Asimov's characters are not real people, they certainly follow the rules of rational human behavior. The World President announces to the assembly, "Today we declare you the Bicentennial Man, Mr. Martin." The operative word in that sentence is "Man." No man can exist without the benefit of a mind. Therefore, the reasonable people that exist in Asimov's story were convinced that Andrew was, in fact, a man and therefore passed the Turing test. Andrew would also overcome the Chinese room problem. Searle notes that "whatever purely formal principles you put into the computer, they will not be sufficient for understanding, since a human will be able to follow the formal principles without understanding anything." Searle is stating that computers are nothing more than advanced machines at the whim of their programming and are not capable of understanding what they simply execute without question. However, humans have the mind to be able to understand the formal instructions given and follow them. It matters not that neither the human nor the machine understand Chinese, what matters is that the human has the mind to understand the formal instructions given to him. On that note, Andrew is much more than a simple input output machine. Andrew overcomes his original input program, the second rule, when he says, "I order you to carry through the operation on me." Andrew clearly has stepped beyond his original input of "A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law." By defeating his simple input output nature, Andrew conquers with Chinese room problem posed by Searle. Searle also poses one more criteria for the mind. If a machine is to have a mind, as the brain does, then it must have "internal causal powers equivalent to those of brains." Andrew appears to have a "brain" that rivals that of man. His "positronic pathways are too complicated to permit of any but approximate solutions. " His brain, therefore, was unorganized and had only the basic instructions, the rules, which made him a robot. His brain was able to form it's own pathways, similar to neurons in our own brain that branch out and form connections. Also, Andrew grasps such abstract concepts as freedom and art. Only a mind would be able to comprehend such intangible topics. A computer program would not be able to understand a subject such as freedom. Given all the evidence, it is obvious that Andrew had a mind.
        There are two sides to every coin though. Some philosophers would argue that only a flesh and blood human would have the brain capacity to establish consciousness and a mind. Descartes, being a dualist, would argue that mind and body are inextricably linked, that no living entity could possibly have one and not the other. Since Andrew lacks a living brain he could not then posses a mind, according to Descartes. Nagel explores the mind-body connection as well. He argues that, ""¦an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is to be that organism-something it is like for that organism. " Since being a mechanical organism is outside our experience, since we could not possibly put ourselves in Andrew's proverbial shoes, we have no chance to prove is conscious mental state. Therefore we could not possibly prove that he has a mind. Nagel and Descartes hold valuable points, but they are immaterial.
        It is obvious to me that Andrew has a mind. So obvious, in fact, that the opposing arguments seem trivial. Descartes would argue that mind and brain are so closely linked that no living creature could possible have one without the other. My personal response to that is of a materials nature, that mind and brain are in fact the same. However, my views aside, it is still a mute argument. Andrew, though not human, possesses a brain that so closely mimics that of humans that the difference between human brains and his are only in the biology. Andrew's brain fulfills performs all the same functions that a human brain would be expected to perform. Also, the fact that Andrew died implies that he was alive. While his death could be talked of in terms of simply "unplugging" him, it seems obvious that his death is permanent. If he were actually alive then Descartes' argument would be mute. Nagel argues that since we lack the ability to place ourselves in Andrew's head we cannot possible determine whether or not he has consciousness. However, we cannot place ourselves in anyone else's mind we cannot possibly determine if they have a mind. It could be argued that no one has a mind except me. Nevertheless, our common human experience tells us that other humans have mind. Just because Andrew is not human does that mean that he cannot posses mind? I don't think so, we, as a society; have to grow out of the idea that we are supreme beings. We must outgrow our egocentric nature and accept that mind may exist outside our tiny skulls. Though opponents raise valid points, it is my opinion that they are incorrect. It is therefore obvious to me that Andrew has a mind.
        Andrew has mind, that so much is plain to me. Turing would agree with me, if we could only place Andrew in Turing test. Searle would agree too, if only a Chinese room were handy. Nagel and Descartes would disagree, perhaps, but they would be incorrect. There arguments are ill suited for this situation. Andrew is obviously more advanced and capable then even they dreamed. I think they would realize the errors of their ways and change their minds if they ever met a creature like Andrew. I hope and pray for the day when a machine like Andrew walks the Earth, so that we all may learn from him and better ourselves.
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