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What Computers Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason

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When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Dreyfus's manifesto on the inherent inability of disembodied machines to mimic higher mental functions caused an uproar in the artificial intelligence community. The world has changed since then. Today it is clear that "good old-fashioned AI," based on the idea of using symbolic representations to produce general intelligence, is When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Dreyfus's manifesto on the inherent inability of disembodied machines to mimic higher mental functions caused an uproar in the artificial intelligence community. The world has changed since then. Today it is clear that "good old-fashioned AI," based on the idea of using symbolic representations to produce general intelligence, is in decline (although several believers still pursue its pot of gold), and the focus of the Al community has shifted to more complex models of the mind. It has also become more common for AI researchers to seek out and study philosophy. For this edition of his now classic book, Dreyfus has added a lengthy new introduction outlining these changes and assessing the paradigms of connectionism and neural networks that have transformed the field.At a time when researchers were proposing grand plans for general problem solvers and automatic translation machines, Dreyfus predicted that they would fail because their conception of mental functioning was naive, and he suggested that they would do well to acquaint themselves with modern philosophical approaches to human beings. What Computers Can't Do was widely attacked but quietly studied. Dreyfus's arguments are still provocative and focus our attention once again on what it is that makes human beings unique. Hubert L. Dreyfus, who is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, is also the author of Being-in-the-World. A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I.


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When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Dreyfus's manifesto on the inherent inability of disembodied machines to mimic higher mental functions caused an uproar in the artificial intelligence community. The world has changed since then. Today it is clear that "good old-fashioned AI," based on the idea of using symbolic representations to produce general intelligence, is When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Dreyfus's manifesto on the inherent inability of disembodied machines to mimic higher mental functions caused an uproar in the artificial intelligence community. The world has changed since then. Today it is clear that "good old-fashioned AI," based on the idea of using symbolic representations to produce general intelligence, is in decline (although several believers still pursue its pot of gold), and the focus of the Al community has shifted to more complex models of the mind. It has also become more common for AI researchers to seek out and study philosophy. For this edition of his now classic book, Dreyfus has added a lengthy new introduction outlining these changes and assessing the paradigms of connectionism and neural networks that have transformed the field.At a time when researchers were proposing grand plans for general problem solvers and automatic translation machines, Dreyfus predicted that they would fail because their conception of mental functioning was naive, and he suggested that they would do well to acquaint themselves with modern philosophical approaches to human beings. What Computers Can't Do was widely attacked but quietly studied. Dreyfus's arguments are still provocative and focus our attention once again on what it is that makes human beings unique. Hubert L. Dreyfus, who is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, is also the author of Being-in-the-World. A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I.

30 review for What Computers Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shriya

    I was looking for a rundown of the dawn of AI and this was it; it's not the most gripping read but there were plenty of interesting and enlightening moments. In the revised edition, the reader gets a wonderful summary of all progress from the late 50s to late 70s. I'm glad I read Dreyfus' skeptical and perhaps cynical take before books from breathless futurists (although I did read the Wait But Why AI series first, which is about as "breathless" as it gets) - the ideas will stay with me for a fa I was looking for a rundown of the dawn of AI and this was it; it's not the most gripping read but there were plenty of interesting and enlightening moments. In the revised edition, the reader gets a wonderful summary of all progress from the late 50s to late 70s. I'm glad I read Dreyfus' skeptical and perhaps cynical take before books from breathless futurists (although I did read the Wait But Why AI series first, which is about as "breathless" as it gets) - the ideas will stay with me for a fair time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Who cares about Heidegger's critique of metaphysical systems in the western world and especially those metaphysical systems underlying the modern science and technology? In general no one, except a few continental philosophers. The story of the first AI research groups from world's top universities can be seen as a huge and unintentional experiment on these metaphysical assumptions/hypotheses. After years of failures, it proved that Heidegger was into something important and that Dreyfus was abs Who cares about Heidegger's critique of metaphysical systems in the western world and especially those metaphysical systems underlying the modern science and technology? In general no one, except a few continental philosophers. The story of the first AI research groups from world's top universities can be seen as a huge and unintentional experiment on these metaphysical assumptions/hypotheses. After years of failures, it proved that Heidegger was into something important and that Dreyfus was absolutely right in this book. Dreyfus confrontation with the AI community is more than a theoretical and academical critique. They didn't understand him and, blindly and with hyper-optimism, held on to their original project; while he moved into irony, ridicule, and personal attacks. The book is technical and serious, but also funny and painful. The AI project changed a lot since then; however one is tempted to ask: how much is still based on old (or new) metaphysical assumptions about humans, intelligence, knowledge, science, technology, world, and so on?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nick Doty

    This book could have been great and compelling, even many years after its writing at the start of a new field, if it weren't so bogged down in attacking and insulting everyone in the field. (No, I didn't read quite to the end; in the final part, after having systematically critiqued every AI researcher he could find for bad scientific process, the author drags out some rumor he heard about someone's failed project as evidence to support his point, and I just decided that was enough for me.) It i This book could have been great and compelling, even many years after its writing at the start of a new field, if it weren't so bogged down in attacking and insulting everyone in the field. (No, I didn't read quite to the end; in the final part, after having systematically critiqued every AI researcher he could find for bad scientific process, the author drags out some rumor he heard about someone's failed project as evidence to support his point, and I just decided that was enough for me.) It is interesting sociology to see how strongly divergent these opinions are, and there seems to be good personal writing from Agre on that point, on the failure to communicate.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leonardo

    Citado en La mente Pág.120 Citado en La mente Pág.120

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    What Computers Couldn't Do (Back In 1972) O, if only Minsky'd read Merleau-Ponty! averting methodo-logical calamity. Imagine if AI had been Husserl'd, Robo-gestaltists being-in-the-world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zane Akers

    dreyfus is probably the most hated man in computer science circles. he stood up and said AI is a pipedream. now whether he's wrong or right (i tend to agree with him, because i'm a rhetorical man) isn't so important as the fact that he's opposition. that's how science works. prove him wrong, minsky!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Spataru Alexe Luca

    Single beautiful phrase I got from foreword: "Artificial Intelligence is not limited by being mindless, but by having no body." The rest seems like was written by a child terrified with Frankenstein nightmares.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    Turns out he was correct.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vaske

  10. 5 out of 5

    Saurabh

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Olson

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  16. 5 out of 5

    Morteza Hoseini

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liedzeit

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aasem Bakhshi

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gregor Erbach

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Cebra

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brian Kenney

  22. 4 out of 5

    Magda Głażewska

  23. 4 out of 5

    Azzaz

  24. 4 out of 5

    Miray

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ed

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fanel Stroe

  28. 5 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marek

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul Girdler

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