Whereupon he reacted, with robotic predictability:
Bit of a non sequitur that. I say the internal implementation does not matter so long as the external behaviour still yields intelligence, in what way does that contradict materialism? If anything, claiming that it matters whether there's neurons or silicon chips implementing intelligent behaviour is claiming there's something important about neurons that goes beyond their material behaviour.An actual materialist should grasp that the actually-existing material incarnation of minds, like the actually-existing material carrier of information, is non-negligible to the mind, to the information. The glib treatment of material differences as matters of utter indifference, as perfectly inter-translatable without loss, as cheerfully dispensable is hardly the attitude of a materialist. One might with better justice describe the attitude as immaterialist.
Once again, you airily refer to "silicon chips implementing intelligent behavior" when that has never once happened and looks nothing like something about to happen and the very possibility of which is central to the present dispute. However invigorating the image of this AI is in your mind -- it is not real, nor is it a falsifiable thought-experiment, nor is it a destiny, nor is it a burning bush, nor is it writing on a wall, and those of us who fail to be moved as you are by this futurological fancy are not denying reality, its stipulated properties -- however fervently asserted by its futurological fanboys -- are not facts in evidence. In response to this charge you will deny, as you have done every other time I have made it, that you are in fact claiming AI is "real" or would be "easy" -- but time after time after time you conjure up these fancies in making your rhetorical case and attribute properties to them with which skeptics presumably have to deal, just because you want them to be true so fervently. Just as well argue how many angels can dance on a pin head.
And then, too, once again, in this formulation you insinuate my recognition that such real-world intelligence that actually exists all happens to be materialized in biological organization amounts to positing something magical or supernatural about brains. No, Gareth: the intelligence that exists is biological and the artificial intelligence to which you attribute all sorts of pet properties does not exist. To entertain the logical possibility that phenomena legible to us as intelligent might be materialized otherwise does not mean that they are, that we can engineer them, or that we know enough about the intelligence we materially encounter to be of any help were we to want to engineer intelligence otherwise. None of that is implied in the realization that there is no reason to treat intelligence of somehow supernatural. None of it. You may need to have a good cry in your pillow for a moment after that sinks in before we continue. It's fine, I'll wait.
Now, again, a "materialism" about mind demands recognition that the materialization of such minds as are in evidence is biological. That intelligence could be materialized otherwise is possible, but not necessarily plausible, affordable, or even useful. Maybe it would be, maybe not. Faith-based techno-transcendental investment of AI with wish-fulfillment fantasies of an overcoming of the scary force of contingency in life, an arrival at omnicompetence no longer bedeviled by the humiliations of error or miscommunication, the driving of engines of superabundance delivering treasure beyond the dreams of avarice, or offering up digital immortalization of an "info-soul" in better-than-real virtuality may make AI seem so desirable that techno-transcendentalists of the transhumanoid, singularitarian kinds want to pretend we know enough to know how do build it when we do not, but that has nothing to do with science or materialism. Gareth and his futurological friends' attitudes look to be common or garden variety religiosity of the most blatant kind, if I may say so. And even if the faithful wear labcoats rather than priest's vestments, it's not like we can't see it's all still from Party City.
The human mind is not immune from scientific investigation and understanding, and neither is the brain (the physical implementation of the mind). That should be a fairly uncontroversial viewpoint. I simply go one further and say that human brains are not immune from simulation, and simulating a brain would automatically get you a mind.No one has denied that intelligence can be studied and better understood. I do wonder whether Gareth's parenthetic description of the brain as "the physical implementation of the mind" already sets the stage for his desired scene of an interested agent implementing an intelligence when there is actually no reason to assume such a thing where the biologically incarnated mind is concerned. People in robot cults should possibly take care before assuming the air of adjucating just which disputes are scientifically controversial or not, by the way. When he goes on to say "I simply go one [step] further" in turning to the claim that simulating a brain automatically gets you a mind I disagree that there is anything "simple" about that leap, or that it is in any sense a logical elaboration of a similar character to the preceding (as he implies by the word "further"). Not only does simulating a brain not obviously or necessarily "automatically" get you a mind, it quite obviously does not, and necessarily not get you the mind so simulated. To say otherwise is not materialist, but immaterialist -- but worse it is palpably insane. You are not a picture of you, and a picture of brain is not a brain, and a moving picture of a mind's operation in some respects is not the mind's operation. You may be stupid and insensitive enough not to see the difference between a romantic partner and a fuck doll got up to look like that romantic partner, but you should not necessarily expect others to be so dull if you bring your doll to meet the family or hope to elude prosecution for murdering your partner when the police come calling.
PS: In Section Three of Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains I connect such pathologically robocultically extreme, immaterialist ideology as I ridicule here to more prevailing, mainstream neoliberal futurology in which immaterialist ideology plays out in, for example, celebrations or at any rate justifications for fraudulent financialization in global, digital developmentalist corporate-military think-tank discourse.