This is a book about minds. It is also about computers. Centrally, we will be interested in examining the relation between minds and computers.
The idea that we might one day be able to construct some artefact which has a mind in the same sense that we have minds is not a new one. It has featured in entertaining and frightening fictions since Mary Shelley first conceived of Frankenstein’s monster.
In the classic science fiction of the early to mid-twentieth century, this idea was generally cashed out in terms of ‘mechanical men’ or robots – from the Czech word robata, which translates roughly as the feudal term corvée, a term which refers to the unpaid labour provided to one’s liege lord.
In more modern fiction, the idea of a mechanical mind has given way to the now commonplace notion of a computational artificial intelligence. The possibility of actually developing artificial intelligence, however, is not just a question of sufficiently advanced technology. It is fundamentally a philosophical question.
It is this question that we will be centrally concerned with throughout this volume. In order that we might be in an informed position to consider the possibility of artificial intelligence, we will need to answer a number of related questions.
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