I briefly considered posting this in IMHO, but I think it is inherently debatable.
The question is: Do you think that entities can, at least in principle, be engineered in such a way that they exhibit general intelligence in their actions?
(Obviously, one can ‘construct’ an intelligent agent by taking Mr. Sperm and Ms. Egg and introducing them together in a test tube, finding a suitable carrier, waiting 9 months, then teaching the resulting child for a decade or so. What I am asking is whether there is any other way for intelligent agents to be created.)
I personally see no reason why it would be impossible, in principal, to construct such an agent. It may take many, many more years of research and development, and it’s possible that such a thing will never in fact be created, but I know of no principle that would disallow it.
My reasons for believing this are:
I believe the Physical Symbol System Hypothesis to be true. The PSSH simply says that a physical symbol system* is necessary and sufficient for general intelligent action.
I don’t believe there is some soul or mystic force that automagically provides intelligence to things that contain it. However, even if there is such a soul or force, it’s possible that constructed intelligence is still, in principle, possible. Assuming there is such a soul, there might still be a way to capture it using physical means, or perhaps God would place a soul into the constructed agent at the appropriate time.
The organization of the human brain doesn’t appear to have any qualities that would make it non-replicable in other materials. Therefore, it is likely possible to create at least one type of intelligent agent: one which has a structure analagous to that of a human brain.
What does everyone else think?
*Physical Symbol System
A physical symbol system is simply a system that contains physical patterns of some sort (called symbols), that are related to each other in some physical way to form ‘expressions’, and that also contains some method for altering, creating, destroying, or copying these expressions.
For example, computers are physical symbol systems because they contain symbols (physical quantities of voltage) that are related to each other in a physical way (by, for example, which comes after the other) to form expressions (bytes, etc.). Computers also have methods for altering, creating, destroying, and copying these expressions.
Human brains are also physical symbol systems. (This is my personal view; I’m not sure how controversial it is.) The chemical signals emitted by neurons are the symbols, and the way they are organized determined the ‘expression’ they make. The lowest level expressions probably are nothing like what we consider thoughts and ideas. Thoughts and ideas are probably constructed of very complex expressions made up of the simpler expressions.
BTW: I use the term ‘Constructed Intelligence’ in the title of this thread instead of the more usual ‘Artificial Intelligence’ because I believe it more acurately describes the intelligences that may arise in the future due to research in computer science. ‘Artificial’ implies that it is somehow not genuine, and I don’t think this will be the case.