CvC3 - Kevin Menear 11/22/05 Minds and Machines Section 4...

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Kevin Menear 11/22/05 Minds and Machines Section 4 Classicism versus Connectionism: The Debate Throughout the years, the study of Artificial Intelligence has expanded significantly. Recent years have seen the development of robots that, at first glance, seem to comprehend stimuli rather than just react to it 1 . Now, research scientists and engineers are forging ahead, hoping to develop AI that truly thinks and is conscious of its surroundings. Yet, even with the increasing technology of the new century, many of these groups have found that they are stuck at a dead end. The problem for these scientists is not the lack of technological resources but a lack of understanding of what consciousness really is and how it comes to be. This lack of understanding stems partly from the ignorance of the functional processes of the brain. Out of this realization comes the struggle to understand exactly how the human brain works. There are two major camps for this issue: classical computationalist and connectionist. The classical computationalist theory for cognition is based on an algorithmic process involving the interpretation and transformation and manipulation of syntactic symbols (SEP 1). The connectionist theory for cognition is based on a neural network consisting of many units connected to one another (SEP 6). These connections allow for the transfer of electrical pulses between separate units. Though the debate over which camp has the correct idea still thrives on, upon close inspection, it can be determined that the only plausible 1 E.g. Kismet developed by MIT, WE-4R developed by Waseda University in Japan
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hypothesis for the functional process of cognition must be that of the classical computationalist. Over the past few decades, research scientists and engineers in the field of Artificial Intelligence have divided into two distinct groups. One group has remained loyal to the classic theory that intelligent behavior can only be explained in terms of algorithmic processes of the computation of symbols conforming to the rules of syntax. This group is popularly known as classical computationalists, or, more simply put, classicists. On the other side of the argument is the group which has broken away from the classical theory of intelligent behavior. This group is widely known as connectionists. These connectionists believe that intelligent behavior is the result of the patterns of activation of an interconnected network of units. The key difference between the two groups is in the acceptance or rejection of the idea that all intelligent behavior is the result of an algorithmic process which relies on the manipulation and transformation of syntactic symbols. The classicists accept this idea while connectionists disregard it. The previously described algorithmic process is easily comparable to the function of a simple Turing Machine; in fact, the classicists believe that all intelligent beings are just highly complex Turing Machines. A Turing Machine operates by using defined symbols. Specific rules are programmed into the machine for
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This essay was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course IHSS IHSS 1051 taught by Professor Vanorman during the Spring '08 term at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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CvC3 - Kevin Menear 11/22/05 Minds and Machines Section 4...

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