Capabilities of computers have become the subject of numerical discussions. It is obvious that particular electronic machine is designed to perform certain functions, and it copes with it well. Nowadays, it is impossible to imagine people’s professional activities without a computer use. Moreover, the inability to use electronic machines can lead to the economic collapse. However, besides the enormous benefits of computers, which perform the only – a programmed task, humans start thinking about the additional capacities of these devices. Thus, the scholars developed the discussion concerning the ability of the electronic computer to understand some information and have other cognitive states. This concept was quite innovative and outlined by the famous scientist John Searle in his work “Minds, Brains and Programs.” To analyze the thoughts concerning the additional computers’ capabilities, it is relevant to compare the Searle’s scientific position with the thoughts of Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon, who conducted the empirical inquiry of the computer science and developed the list of specific symbols, which can be used while arguing the mentioned issues. Consequently, in this work the position regarding the computers’ cognitive abilities is presented by means of the comparison of two relevant scientific papers: “Minds, Brains and Programs” by John Searle, and “Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search” by Allen Newell, Herbert A. Simon.
It is well-known the computer is a device or a system which is capable to perform a specified and clearly defined sequence of operations. Electronic machines have the appropriate software designed to provide certain operations and cope with various tasks. Nevertheless, John Searle criticized the concept of an “appropriately programmed computer” and mentioned that electronic machines “can have cognitive states and can explain human cognition by referring to Roger Schank’s project” (425). It was devised to stimulate the human ability to understand and remember the stories. The scholar applied this method in his research and came to a surprising conclusion that machines were able to understand the story and answer the questions. To prove it, Searle used the Schank’s developments and compared the brain activity with the work of the computer. The study was based on the ability of a computer program to understand language.
“. . . Suppose I am locked in a room and given a large batch of Chinese writing…I know no Chinese . . . Now suppose that after this first batch of Chinese writing I am given a second batch together with a set of rules for correlating the second batch with the first batch . . . I can [now] identify the symbols entirely by their shapes. Now suppose also that I am given a third batch together with some instructions that enable me to correlate elements of this third batch with the first two batches. . . . Unknown to me, the people who are giving me all these symbols call the first batch a ‘Script’, the second batch a ‘story’ and the third batch ‘questions’. They call the symbols I give them back in response to the third batch ‘answers to the questions’ and the set of rules in English that they gave me, they call the ‘program’. . . . Nobody just looking at my answers can tell that I don’t speak a word of Chinese. As far as the Chinese is concerned, I simply behave like a computer” (Searle 430).
As a result, it was found out that despite the inability to understand the language the person performs the task and answers exact questions. The same thing happens with the computer. While the capability to understand unprogrammed issues is extremely controversial, it can be proven that computer has some cognitive features and its activities can go beyond the programmed actions.
Newell and Simon, in their turn, argued that electronic machines have no ability to the recognition. They mentioned that these electronic devices understand not more than adding machines or automobiles, i.e. nothing. The field of computer activities is clearly limited by the installed programs, and it is impossible to change it. In addition, the scholars developed the empirical approach to the study of computer science (Newell and Simon 120). The devised physical symbol system proposed a set of symbols, which can be used systemically and are applicable when creating symbol structures. On the basis of this system, the scientists proposed the Physical Symbol System Hypothesis which refers to the system of elements that is sufficient for general intelligent action (Newell and Simon 123).
Consequently, the indicated above papers propose different approaches to the issues concerning the computers’ ability to execute unprogrammed actions and have cognitive states. In my opinion, the views of John Searle seemed to be more reasonable and credible. This scholar underlined six objections, which are convincing, especially the Systems Reply and the Robot Reply. For all intends and purposes, electronic machines are capable to perform acting in something similar to the thinking, and they have some features, which are peculiar to the human brain. Based on the aforementioned, there is the urgent need to emphasize that only special kinds of machines can be a subject to the foregoing description. Unfortunately, both papers did not provide the reader with such typologization.