Why Machines Can Never “Think”

Dr. Michael Egnor, a tenured research professor of neurosurgery at Stony Brook University, shares insights on human thought and artificial intelligence (AI). He discusses seminal research projects from the 20th century that offer deep insight into human thought. These include the work of neurosurgeons Wilder Penfield and Roger Sperry, as well as researcher Benjamin Libet. Penfield’s findings suggested that agency and intellect in humans are immaterial, while Sperry’s research showed that the mind is metaphysically simple and cannot be split. Libet’s work on brainwaves and thoughts indicated the reality of free will. Egnor argues that computers cannot think because computation is blind to meaning, whereas thoughts are inherently intentional. He concludes that while artificial intelligence is significant, it is not equivalent to human thought but rather a powerful tool to leverage human intellect.

Editor’s Note: This article presents a compelling perspective on the relationship between human thought and AI. By highlighting the immaterial aspects of human intellect and the limitations of computational processes, Egnor prompts us to reconsider the fundamental differences between human cognition and machine learning.

In an era where AI technologies are rapidly advancing and influencing various aspects of society, Egnor’s examination of the philosophical underpinnings of AI is both timely and essential. It underscores the importance of understanding the distinctiveness of human thought and the potential implications of AI on our understanding of consciousness, free will, and the human mind.

As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of AI development and integration, Egnor’s insights serve as a thought-provoking contribution to the broader discourse surrounding artificial intelligence.

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