A philosophical refashioning of the Language of Thought approach and the related computational theory of mind.

The language of thought (LOT) approach to the nature of mind has been highly influential in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind; and yet, as Susan Schneider argues, its philosophical foundations are weak. In this philosophical refashioning of LOT and the related computational theory of mind (CTM), Schneider offers a different framework than has been developed by LOT and CTM's main architect, Jerry Fodor: one that seeks integration with neuroscience, repudiates Fodor's pessimism about the capacity of cognitive science to explain cognition, embraces pragmatism, and advances a different approach to the nature of concepts, mental symbols, and modes of presentation.

According to the LOT approach, conceptual thought is determined by the manipulation of mental symbols according to algorithms. Schneider tackles three key problems that have plagued the LOT approach for decades: the computational nature of the central system (the system responsible for higher cognitive function); the nature of symbols; and Frege cases. To address these problems,] Schneider develops a computational theory that is based on the Global Workspace approach; develops a theory of symbols, "the algorithmic view"; and brings her theory of symbols to bear on LOT's account of the causation of thought and behavior. In the course of solving these problems, Schneider shows that LOT must make peace with both computationalism and pragmatism; indeed, the new conception of symbols renders LOT a pragmatist theory. And LOT must turn its focus to cognitive and computational neuroscience for its naturalism to succeed.

A sober-minded philosophical exploration of what AI can and cannot achieve

Humans may not be Earth’s most intelligent species for much longer: the world champions of chess, Go, and Jeopardy! are now all AIs. Given the rapid pace of progress in AI, many predict that it could advance to human-level intelligence within the next several decades. From there, it could quickly outpace human intelligence. What do these developments mean for the future of the mind?

In Artificial You, Susan Schneider says that it is inevitable that AI will take intelligence in new directions, but urges that it is up to us to carve out a sensible path forward. As AI technology turns inward, reshaping the brain, as well as outward, potentially creating machine minds, it is crucial to beware. Homo sapiens, as mind designers, will be playing with "tools" they do not understand how to use: the self, the mind, and consciousness. Schneider argues that an insufficient grasp of the nature of these entities could undermine the use of AI and brain enhancement technology, bringing about the demise or suffering of conscious beings. To flourish, we must grasp the philosophical issues lying beneath the algorithms.

At the heart of her exploration is a sober-minded discussion of what AI can truly achieve: Can robots really be conscious? Can we merge with AI, as tech leaders like Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil suggest? Is the mind just a program? Examining these thorny issues, Schneider proposes ways we can test for machine consciousness, questions whether consciousness is an unavoidable byproduct of sophisticated intelligence, and considers the overall dangers of creating machine minds.

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