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Is Your Brain a Computer?

Critical Thinking About Minds, Brains and Artificial Intelligence

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This is the course that I'm currently working on, and it is not yet complete. I'm adding new videos to the curriculum as they're produced.


Course Description

I've always been fascinated by the concept of artificial intelligence. Is it possible, even in principle, to create a machine that can think and be conscious in the way that we are?

A lot of science fiction has been written that assumes the answer to this question is "yes". And a lot of smart scientists believe the answer is "yes", and are working to make the concept a reality.

One of the central theoretical models within cognitive science is the computer model of the brain, and the correlated notion that thinking is, in some sense, a computational process. This model underwrites the optimism of many people working toward AI.

But there are also many critics of the idea of strong artificial intelligence, and the computer model of the brain. The debates between the "pro" and "con" camps on this issue touch on some of the most profound questions of human existence.

  • What is thinking? What is a mental state?
  • What is the best explanation for the kinds of intelligent behavior that human beings exhibit?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Why would anyone think that the brain functions like a computer?
  • If the computational model is wrong, what are the alternatives?

These questions have spilled into public awareness with high tech companies actively pushing AI technology and movies and television exploring the near and far future implications of this technology.

My goal in this course is to provide the background and conceptual tools necessary for any person, regardless of their background, to think about and discuss these issues in an informed and critical way.

As an academic philosopher who has taught courses in the philosophy of mind, cognitive science and technology, I'm delighted to have the chance to share this background and discuss these issues with you.