I have been, for whatever reason, thinking a bit about artificial intelligence (AI). More precisely, I have been thinking about what is generally called "strong AI," i.e. artificial intelligence that matches or supersedes the human intellect, the kind you see in science fiction books and movies. My thinking has led me to believe that such a thing will never be.
First, the intellect is, for lack of a better term, a substantial or essential power. Its origin is in the substantial form, the essence, the nature of the being that possesses it. No machine possesses a substantial form. Rather, any machine qua machine possesses only an accidental form that is brought about through the organization of parts. These parts may be composed of a substance or substances, but the machine itself exists only insofar as said substance or substances are given certain shapes and arranged within certain relations. Since a machine possesses no substantial form, it cannot possess, qua machine, any power that has its origin in substantial form, and thus it cannot possess intellect.
Second, the intellect is a purely immaterial, spiritual power. It does not depend on matter for its operation, either the matter of the knower or the matter of the thing known. While in some intellectual beings, viz. man, matter may be required to provide the intellect with the forms it uses in its operation through the external and internal senses, this is accidental to the operation of the intellect qua intellect. Now, man does not have the power to create immaterial being. As such, man does not have the power to create intellect.
Third, is anyone familiar with the "Chinese room" argument of analytic philosopher John Searle? I have only a slight familiarity with it, but I believe it goes something like this: Take a man who understands no Chinese and put him in a room filled with data on the rules of the language, such as grammar, structure, likely replies to certain inquiries &c. Have a Chinese speaker try to communicate with the man through writing. Given enough time and enough data on the language, the man will be able to respond to the Chinese speaker in a way that is both grammatically correct and makes sense to the Chinese speaker. The Chinese speaker will believe he is having a meaningful conversation with the man in the room, but the man in the room will have no idea as to what the conversation is about. I find this argument interesting because it demonstrates the difference between manipulating symbols and understanding them.
St. Thomas, if I am not mistaken, held that words carry with them the form of things. The origin of words, whether written or spoken, is in the internal word, the knowledge of a thing possessed by the soul. The use of words is not just the manipulation of symbols, but is instead the transmission if intelligibility and form. The word directs one beyond itself to the thing in itself as it can be known by the soul.
Then there is a difference between instinct, stimulus/response, or rule based communication and true intellectual communication. The former has its origin in some amount of in-built rules that determine the response to certain stimuli. The latter goes beyond the perception of the stimuli and the interaction of the one who produced the stimuli and the one who responds to them, referencing a third being whose intelligibility and form the words carry and to whom the writer or speaker of the words directs the intellect of the one who receives them. The former happens only on the level of the sensible, while the latter transcends the sensible, using it to direct eh light of reason to investigate some communicated piece of reality.
Anyway, those are just some random thoughts I've had in the last few days. Any critiques, discussion or interesting references would be much appreciated.