The mind is best understood, not as software, but rather as an emergent property of the physical brain. So building an artificial intelligence with the same level of complexity as that of a human intelligence isn’t a matter of just finding the right algorithms and putting it together. The brain is much more complicated than that, and is very likely simply not amenable to that kind of mathematical reductionism, any more than economic systems are. Getting back to the question of artificial intelligence, then, you can see why it becomes a much taller order to produce a human-level intelligence. It’s possible to build computers that can learn and solve complex problems. But it’s much less clear that there’s an easy road to a computer that’s geared towards the type of emergent properties that distinguish the human brain. Even if such properties did emerge, I’m willing to bet that the end result of a non-human, sapient intelligence would be very alien to our understanding, possibly to the point of non-comprehension. Electric circuits simply function differently then electrochemical ones, and so its likely that any sapient properties would emerge quite differently.The article isn't long and is worth a scan, but you do sort of have to be entrenched in this stuff to really be interested. The way I see it, Knapps has two points: building the brain is hard because its circuitry is plastic (as in changeable) and self-adapting, and its hard because it cannot easily be done purely with software or hardware, but rather a much-more-difficult mesh of the two. So imagine if you will, a helicopter. It flies into the deep Amazon rainforest and picks up a few people from an isolated indigenous tribe. They are then transported to Cape Canaveral, Florida and are witness to a shuttle launch. One minute they are hunting for food and the next moment they are witness to one of the greatest engineering feats in history. It is then explained to them that inside that colossal structure (that is now flinging itself upwards at approximately a hundred times the speed of their fastest arrow) are six human beings who will soon be among the stars. "Can you build this?" the translator then asks the Amazonians.
Well of course they can't. Yet. But in the long arc of history the engineers who built the shuttle had ancestors too, who were incapable of even imagining a "space shuttle." And yet, less than 75 years after the first human being flew a fixed wing aircraft across a beach, we were launching people at bullet speed into space.
Knapp is right: building an electronic device that perfectly emulates the human brain is impossible...today. But when the first attempts at artificial intelligence are 75 years come and gone, will people of 2085 take artificially intelligent computers for granted? Will it barely make the news?
I disclose, with 100% egotism, that the human brain is the most complicated known object in the Universe. It contains 300 billion different parts. It can change itself at will. But unlike faster-than-light space travel or anti-gravity or pulsed arc reactors on Iron Man, we have a functioning example in nature off of which we can build our first crappy prototypes. Then we can improve those prototypes.
If you look at the long arc of history that went from Kitty Hawk to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and draw a parallel to developing artificial intelligence...we're not even off the ground yet. We're this guy. Give it time, Alex, give it time. We've got good brains working on this.