Machines CANNOT think

This is a strong statement, but something I feel compelled to write. As I currently read through the fantastic book Facing the Intelligence Explosion by Luke Muehlhauser I came across a statement I disagree with, whilst I’m enthralled with everything else in the book.

Machines can now compose music, play chess and Jeopardy!, understand continuous speech, pick stocks, guide missiles, recognise faces, diagnose health problems, and so much more. (Muehlhauser, 2013)

Yes machines are technically capable of meeting our requirements of what we accept as capabilities listed above. But the machines aren’t doing this because they want to, chose that profession or direction in life or because they’re artists capable of producing never before heard scores. They are not driven to or passionate about music, art or understanding people. They are achieving these goals because they were ‘designed’ to. The machine is the physical or digital representation of a series of connected algorithms and processes. They are nothing more than advanced calculators, capable of processing data at a tremendously faster rate than humans.

When I see a machine or hear of mechanical accomplishments I also get excited, proud and overwhelmed at how mankind have broken down complex tasks in to calculations which they can repeat endlessly, using machines, code and engineering. Designers, engineers, technologist are capable of amazing things. They build machines! But the machines are nothing without the problem-solving, inventive and sometimes chaotic brains of humans.

Machines CANNOT read books and tell me their favorite quotes or which they think I should read. But machines CAN analyse the text and words of thousands of books in a few seconds, and — based on complex algorithms, designed by humans — they can suggest series of characters that they’ve identified as being the closest matches to my personal criteria.