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Machines, minds and computers
Machines, minds and computers

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3.3.2 Strong artificial intelligence

Strong artificial intelligence is summed up in possibility 2. The goal is intelligently behaving computers, as before. But for strong artificial intelligence there is more to it than that. Searle writes:

... according to strong [artificial intelligence], the computer is not merely a tool in the study of the mind; rather, the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind.

Source: Searle (1980)

If, as I suggested above, at some level, the human brain and the digital computer are equivalent systems, then surely this is a possibility? Symbolic AI pioneers like Turing and McCarthy certainly believed in the possibility of strong artificial intelligence. These days it is hard to find researchers who will openly admit to believing in it. Our course is overwhelmingly concerned with strategies and techniques that would be called weak artificial intelligence. However, whether researchers want to acknowledge it or not, strong artificial intelligence is a prospect that always remains in the corner of our eyes.


Sum up what you understand by the terms weak artificial intelligence and strong artificial intelligence.


Weak artificial intelligence is a practical programme that aims to build computer systems that have intelligent behaviour, but are not necessarily based on human mental processes. Such systems are likely to be quite narrow in their behavioural scope. Weak artificial intelligence can also be a tool for psychological investigations of these processes.

Strong artificial intelligence looks to imitate human mental processes with the aim of building computer systems that are intelligent in the same way as humans, and may even be sentient in the way that humans are.

Weak or strong, artificial intelligence and the computer are inextricably bound together. Stripping away irrelevant details, such as what software it runs, what company makes it, what processor it uses and how much memory it has, and so on, what exactly is a digital computer?