About: The Intentional Machine

Intentionality is the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs. The puzzles of intentionality lie at the interface between the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. ¹

It is my hope that this blog evolves in due time, from distinct expositions into the worlds of Data Science / Machine Learning and the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, to a confluence of the two fields; consequently, I hope to wade into the thick of wondering about what it means to be artificially intelligent.

The guiding motive is the urge to explore, summarize, and perhaps someday contribute to, the understanding of intentional phenomena – belief states, perceptions, desires, and other mental states. As we take up stances on both sides of the Artificial Intelligence revolution, it begets us to define what we really mean by A.I., how it applies to inorganic computational machines; why mammals – as organic computing machines – are or are not exempt from its definitions, and finally, what the implications of such a realization may be. When, for instance, can a Neural Network be said to be generating an intentional state, if at all? Can we say that Google’s TensorFlow learns a representation of a tulip in the same sense that you and I learn a representation of a tulip? At what point do we go from purely mechanical processes (e.g. processing of input percepts – vision, sensation, etc.) to intentional states, i.e. how do we generate belief, create desirehope for an outcome? And if we can’t answer this about organic mammals, how must we go about identifying this problem of “interface” for our inorganic counterparts?

We’re by no means there yet. But some say we’ll get there soon, others maintain that it’ll take quite a while, while still others maintain that it’s quite impossible to ever get there. What do you think?

Ash Chakraborty.

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¹ Jacob, Pierre, “Intentionality“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)