Real realization: Dennett’s real patterns versus Putnam’s ubiquitous automata [Book Review]

Minds and Machines 16 (1):29-41 (2006)
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Both Putnam and Searle have argued that that every abstract automaton is realized by every physical system, a claim that leads to a reductio argument against Cognitivism or Strong AI: if it is possible for a computer to be conscious by virtue of realizing some abstract automaton, then by Putnam’s theorem every physical system also realizes that automaton, and so every physical system is conscious—a conclusion few supporters of Strong AI would be willing to accept. Dennett has suggested a criterion of reverse engineering for identifying “real patterns,” and I argue that this approach is also very effective at identifying “real realizations.” I focus on examples of real-world implementations of complex automata because previous attempts at answering Putnam’s challenge have been overly restrictive, ruling out some realizations that are in fact paradigmatic examples of practical automaton realization. I also argue that some previous approaches have at the same time been overly lenient in accepting counter-intuitive realizations of trivial automata. I argue that the reverse engineering approach avoids both of these flaws. Moreover, Dennett’s approach allows us to recognize that some realizations are better than others, and the line between real realizations and non-realizations is not sharp



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