Good Example Of Essay On Can Machines Think?

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Vehicles, Technology, Computers, Education, Machine, Human, Brain, China

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/15

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In his Minds, Brains and Programs, Professor John Searle offered an argument against the claims of Alan Truing on the ability of machines to think. In his presentation, Searle opened the Chinese Room experiment to show the weakness of the Turing test in proving that machines can think. In a paper written by Turing almost six decades ago, he proposed a simple imitation game that was supposed to show the ability of machines to think like human brains do. While the arguments of Turing pointed to the ability of machines to think, it was refuted by the assertions of Searle claiming that only the brain, a special kind of machine can think.

The Turing Test

In his Computing Machine and Intelligence published in the 1950s, Alan Turing capitalized on the use of an imitation game to support the idea that machines have the capability to think. This game was composed of three players where there is the interrogator, a man (designated as A) and a woman (designated as B). The game was intended in a way that the other two participants convince the interrogator that one is the other, and the later would guess who in a room is the man or woman. With this scenario, Turing then replaced his query of “Can machines think?” into “What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game? (Turing, 434). When one of the participants is replaced by a machine, the objective of the game now is for the interrogator to guess who between the two players is a machine. Turing claimed that the question and answer method in appears to be appropriate for presenting “almost any of the fields of human endeavour that we wish to include” (Turing, 435) That almost 60 years ago, but during that time Turing believed that in several decades more, programmed computers will be able to play the game with the interrogator not having70% accuracy on his guesses (Turing, 446).

Digital Computers

In Turing’s experiments, he limited the participating machine to that of the digital computers, further clarifying that the idea behind the use of this type of machines is their ability to perform tasks that can be done by human computer. The digital computers have three component, those are the a) store, which is corresponded to that of the human computer’s paper, b) the executive unit, and c) the control (Turing). Turing has rightly predicted that computers will achieve a feat where it can compete with men in intellectual fields, but while computers can do work way faster and more accurately than humans, it remains that it is all due to the programming and not to that natural ability of cognition.
Despite the presentation of Turing on the superb ability of the machines, it remains that this machines, even with the advancements we have today do not and cannot have the ability to think. While Turing was correct on his hypothesis on the creation of better “thinking” machines as we have now, these machines does not have the component in their system to be able to think like humans do. It remains that to be able to think, the computer needs to be programmed in order to be able to process any information. While digital machines as presented by Turing can be able to process an operation, it is not considered as a thinking aspect as thinking calls more that the processing of data or information.

Minds, Brains, and Programs by Searle

Could a Machine Think? This is an argument presented by Searle in his paper Minds, Brains and Programs where he endeavored to establish that a) intentionality in human beings (and animals) is a product of causal features of the brain, b) instantiating a computer program is never by itself a sufficient condition of intentionality (Searle, 1). Searle’s claims are in strong argument against the presentation of Turing on the supposed ability of a machine to think.

Refuting the Turing Test

Alan Turing’s study resulted to the affirmative answers that some machines can answer queries in a way that it can communicate adequately well and individual cannot determine whether it is interacting with a machine or human being. While there are many scholars who agreed on the reasonableness of this theory, John Searle thought otherwise. He does not believe on the reliability of the Turing test and further substantiates his claim through the Chinese test. The Chinese test as promulgated by Searle is a means to disprove the notion that machines can think like humans as can be understood in the following phrase, “according to strong AI, the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind, in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states” (Searle, 2).
The strong artificial intelligence, despite being programmed to function as the human brain, does not have the capacity of cognition. In relation to the Chinese room theory, a machine can be set to have the ability to understand English or Chinese but it does not have the biological structure that can be used to produce perception, action and other cognitive processes. This is where the intentionality differentiates the humans from computers or machines. Intentionality, as presented in Searle’s paper, is a causal relation between mental processes and brains (Searle, 1). With the query of whether machines can think, the answer is yes and as cited by Searle, the only machines that can do so are the special kind, those are the “the brains and other machines with internal causal powers equivalent to those of brains” (Searle, 1). He further explained that artificial intelligence, does not belong to the later as it does not have anything to do about thinking. It is a program and there is no program that is adequate enough in it-self perform the process of cognition.

The Chinese Room Test

The Chinese room test was designed to put on process on the workings of the computer that is similar to that of the imitation game promulgated by Turing. The experiment goes with a person who doesn’t understand Chinese can be able to decode Chinese symbols and translate the meaning in the process. The computer in turn, cannot do as the human did because it is way beyond its capacity to do so.


The arguments of Searle in Mind, Brain and Programs despite several criticisms, has a more concrete basis than that of Turing’s test. While Turing abstained from directly answering the question of whether machines could think, it was implied on the interpretation of the results of his test. Turing claimed that when a machine can possible test on the imitation game, it permits the conclusion that machines can actually perform cognitive processes that the human brain can do. On the other hand, it was asserted in Searle’s paper that despite strong AI’s; that is the sufficiently programmed computers can comprehend language and other mind-like processes. Searle further wrote that despite the strong AI, there is no recognized set of resemblance of the information processing of the brain and that of the computer. Computers can merely handle symbols as programmed or it can process complex information but it largely depended on the taking the information as an input, and through the program installed, interpret and transform it into an output. One of the arguments of Searle that quietly shocked AI Workers is in his remarks that the “actual human mental phenomena might be dependent on actual physical/chemical properties of actual human brains” (Searle, 13).


Searle, J., (1980). Minds, Brains, and Programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Retrieved from
Turing, A., 1950. Computing Machinery and Intelligence.

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