To Table of Contents 8'98
Mathesis Universalis     No.8 - Autumn 1998
When using any part of this text - by Witold Marciszewski - refer, please, to the URL listed at the bottom

Introduction to this Issue

Mind versus Computer. Were Dreyfus and Winograd Right?

Edited by M.Gams, M.Paprzycki and X.Wu. IOS Press and Ohmsha, Amsterdam etc. 1997. Vol.43 of the Series "Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications". Pp.235 (B5 size). Abbreviated below as MvC.

The editors explain the aim and scope of the volume in the following passages.

"This Mind Versus Computer aims to reevaluate the soundness of current AI research, especially the heavily disputed strong-AI paradigm, and to pursue new directions towards achieving true intelligence. It is a brainstorming issue about core ideas that will shape future AI. We have tried to include critical papers representing different positions on these issues.

Submissions were invited in all subareas and on all aspects of AI research and its new directions, especially:

  • the current state, positions, and true advances achieved in the last 5-10 years in various subfields of AI (as opposed to parametric improvements),
  • the trends, perspectives and foundations of artificial and natural intelligence, and
  • strong AI vs. weak AI and the reality of most current "typical" publications in AI."

MvC is divided into three parts, entitled "Overview and General Issues", "New Approaches", "Computability and Form versus Meaning". This seems a reasonable and elegant scheme. The two first classes of contributions follow the scheme of reporting the state of a research, while the third distinguishes the most important issue in a brainstorming (as intended by the Editors) concerning AI. Even if the location of a particular text is debatable, these are acceptable costs of that clear partition.

The book is based on a special issue of the journal Informatica that started with the two papers:

As a reader can learn from the Editors' comment, both papers were published some years ago and arouse a vivid debate which is to be revisited in MvC after a time of experiences and new thoughts regarding AI.

The both mentioned papers are published in the said special issue of Informatica where they are recommended as unique and worth reading again and again. This recommendation is repeated in MvC, but these leading papers themselves are omitted in the volume, in spite of their being referred to in its very title. Instead, the volume is prefaced by a text by Terry Winograd who sums up his current views on AI and refers to those of Dreyfus brothers. Let the following statement give an idea of his approach.

"The thrust of our argument is that the traditional symbolic/rational approach to AI can not achieve capacities such as normal human language understanding. This is not a quibble about whether the computer's behavior deserves to be called `understanding', but a claim that computers will not be able to duplicate the full range of human language capacities without some fundamentally new approach to the way in which they are built and programmed."

In this Mathesis Universalis issue, the both omitted texts are briefly reported, and then critically commented. Thus the Reader can refer to that comment to complement what is said in the above passage.

In the ending passage of the Preface Winograd expresses his appreciation of the volume for the reasons (shared by the present reviewer) which he states as follows.

"The philosophical arguments about the basis of AI can shed light on the plausibility of different approaches, and can be of great consequence in the developmnet of computer technologies.

The kind of debate represented in this volume is indeed relevant ant practical. The wisdom of philosophically grounded knowledge complements the power of technologically grounded analysis. We may not be able to give precise answers to the questions we ask, but in asking them and pursuing them with serious rigour, we continually open up new possibilities for thought and for action."

Within the limits of this issue, it is hardly possible to render an account of both "philosophically grounded knowledge" and "technologically grounded analysis" as found in Mind versus Computer. However, to give an idea of both, a text is offered here in which a most general survey of the content is made and same selected contributions are examined in a greater de tail.