Issues in Philosophy What Machines Can't Do

What Machines Can’t Do

In this week’s talk from the Institute of Art and Ideas, the panel considers the potential of artificial minds.

Turing has been joined by Hawking and others claiming computers could overtake humanity. Yet computers have struggled to even identify as simple an object as a banana. Will machines soon match their makers? Or is it hype and real AI remains elusive because we have misunderstood the nature of both thought and machines?

The Panel

Philosopher David Chalmers and computer scientist Kate Devlin join Closure theorist Hilary Lawson to consider the threat of intelligent machines.

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This video was produced by The Institute of Art and Ideas and is republished here with permission. It was filmed at HowTheLightGetsIn 2016 alongside 200 other debates and talks, all available for free at IAI TV. Tickets for HowTheLightGetsIn 2018 are now on sale for the launch lineup and more information, click here.


  1. The answer to the question ‘What Machines can’t do’ is ‘feel’.
    All they are capable of doing is ‘thinking’, or at least simulate thinking because, in the absence of feeling, thinking people have programmed them to imitate how they think. The participant’s to this Blog didn’t seem to have given much credence to the fact that all conceptually-conscious processing is a priori and therefore premised, second-hand on our sensually-conscious a posteriori experiences – no matter how far back in our evolutionary history we need to go to find them. This means that all scientific enquiry – even at a quantum level, is fundamentally subjective. Unfortunately, Homo sapiens seems to have become increasingly burdened with the delusion that it can ignore this fact and, with the aid of computers, find a more reliable solution to our future survival than evolution itself. The thinking part of our minds starts from the premise that the Universe is determinate, so all it needs to do is find objective reasons why it behaves in the way it does, whereas the feeling part isn’t premised on anything, other than it must be chaotic and therefore fundamentally indeterminate, so responds retrospectively to its changes by experiencing them subjectively, which is what evolution has ordained we do. By relying more on thinking, rather than feeling our way through life, our egos have become so self-congratulatory they fail to see the wood for the trees any more.


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