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What Computers Still Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason [Paperback]

by Hubert L. Dreyfus
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 30, 1992 0262540673 978-0262540674 1

When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Dreyfus's manifesto on the inherent inability of disembodied machines to mimic higher mental functions caused an uproar in the artificial intelligence community. The world has changed since then. Today it is clear that "good old-fashioned AI," based on the idea of using symbolic representations to produce general intelligence, is in decline (although several believers still pursue its pot of gold), and the focus of the Al community has shifted to more complex models of the mind. It has also become more common for AI researchers to seek out and study philosophy. For this edition of his now classic book, Dreyfus has added a lengthy new introduction outlining these changes and assessing the paradigms of connectionism and neural networks that have transformed the field.At a time when researchers were proposing grand plans for general problem solvers and automatic translation machines, Dreyfus predicted that they would fail because their conception of mental functioning was naive, and he suggested that they would do well to acquaint themselves with modern philosophical approaches to human beings. What Computers Can't Do was widely attacked but quietly studied. Dreyfus's arguments are still provocative and focus our attention once again on what it is that makes human beings unique.Hubert L. Dreyfus, who is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, is also the author of Being-in-the-World. A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hubert L. Dreyfus is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 429 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (October 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262540673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262540674
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hubert Dreyfus is Professor of Philosophy in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University, he taught at MIT, before coming to Berkeley in l968. Dreyfus has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and has received research grants from both the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He holds a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
You can follow him on Twitter @hubertdreyfus; or on Facebook at "All Things Shining".

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A response to Jeffrey Shallit. November 24, 2000
By A Customer
Mr. Shallit compares the critique of cognitive science by Professor Dreyfus to 'creation science'. He remarks that Dreyfus is not a computer scientist. This is true. But many 'cognitive scientists' aren't either, cognitive science being an interdisciplinary pursuit engaging philosophers, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists, anthropologists and sociologists. It is unfortunate that Dreyfus allowed himself to polemicize by using the word 'alchemy' to characterize his opponents, but he has, by far, been the victim of unargued diatribes against his work. The fact is: most of the salient issues in cognitive science are logical and conceptual, NOT technological. Here, Dreyfus broke new ground (although I would have preferred his treatment to have been more Wittgensteinian than Heideggerian). Phil Agre's brilliant book on computation and human experience (Agre IS a computer scientist) shows that SOME AI-workers have found aspects of Dreyfus's work very telling. But, of course, the issues are, again, not empirical but logical in this field. See, for example, Graham Button et al., "Computers, Minds and Conduct" (Polity/Blackwell, 1995) which picks up where Dreyfus left off. Shallit remarks that Dreyfus has been 'refuted': where? by whom?
The fact is that cognitivism is hotly contested by serious thinkers in many disciplines, but Shallit's name-calling (and the comparison of cognitivism's serious critics to creation scientists) smacks of an abdication from serious engagement and argument.
Dreyfus's revised edition is a fine piece of work, worthy of serious intellectual discussion and confrontation. His many aarguments against Fodor, Chomsky, Simon and others have great merit. It is unfortunate that some folks simply close their eyes and argue from authority. But appeals to (even 'scientific') authority wear thin when left to stand alone!!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is an absolute classic that everyone interested in or working in AI should have read. It is one of the very view books on a computer related subject that is over 25 years old and still useful today. That alone might tell you something. I find it interesting that many AI-workers seem to be actually afraid of this book. They should not. It may give the reader a far better sense on limits, use and future of AI work.
I would also recommend this book to people outside the AI world and who are interested in what role the digital computer may play in our lives. But the book is not about bits, so if you don't like technical mumbo-jumbo, this is still a book for you.
The book is very well written. Some readers may find it a difficult book, as it also contains some philosophical issues. But some readers may find themselves in a bookstore asking for the work of Wittgenstein or Heidegger and actually understanding what they read (and like what they read) after having read this book.
I have only one complaint. The introduction to the 1992 MIT Press edition is in fact an afterword. It assumes that you already are familiar with the history of the subject. So, if you read this book, you should start with the Introduction to the 1979 edition instead and keep the Introduction to the MIT Press edition definitely for last
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What AI researchers can't do on computers - yet September 23, 2002
Dreyfus' book is about the history of failure of Artificial Intelligence researchers such as Marvin Minsky to embody intelligence at the human level. It is easy to read, but is rather exasperating. It is like riding in a truck driven by Minsky, and other AI researchers, where they are trying to make a long trek across a country without roads. They keep getting caught in swamps, blowing tires, and hitting trees, all the time shouting "We're almost there!" Meanwhile Dreyfus is a dog in the bed of the truck continually barking at dangers, and the folly of the drivers. Amidst Dreyfus' continuous cacophony of sarcastic cynicism there are some important points on what assumptions are doomed to failure, which he made quite clear by tedious repetition.
Basically there are two types of mistakes made by Minsky and many others:
1. believing they were getting close to understanding human thought,
2. repeatedly announcing same to the world.
The philosophy of Dreyfus in the first 300 pages is largely concerned with fallacious assumptions made by AI researchers. Finally in the last 50 pages (350 page book) he settles down and gives us some interesting concepts that should be understood if we are to seek AI at the human level. He develops the concept of "nonformal behavior" - which we humans usually learn by generalizing examples and following intuition without use of formal rules. Examples: chess at the gestalt master level, and disambiguation of broken sentences.
Dreyfus acknowledges the possible importance of neural network architectures, but dismisses them as outside the scope of his critique.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
It goes without saying that this book remains a landmark in the history of AI research: a sobering antidote to all the research hype.
But what a patchwork it has become. Every ten years, the book has a new section and a new introduction bolted on to it. But not just bolted on to the end, or on to the beginning.
No reader is given an easy path through the text: neither the reader who is new to the material (and who wants to read through the text in chronological order), nor the reader who has read the previous incarnation of the book (and who wants to pick up just the new parts).
The message of the book, too, is unfortunately weakened by its subjective stance, and its invocation of the personalities from the debate.
However, the book still remains a refreshingly different contribution to the world of AI research, an important warning, and a greatly worthwhile read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A critique on the Age of the Machine - 2 Fronts
On the 1st front, the book argues that machines can't replace people. On the second front, I highly recommend to anyone interested in Big Data. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brian D. Labatte
5.0 out of 5 stars An important critique
I first read Dreyfus' critique of AI back in the 1970s, when I was an undergrad studying computer science. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Michael J. Edelman
2.0 out of 5 stars Artificial Intelligences Exist Today
Scientists have formulated at least 100 definitions of what intelligence is. (for a partial listing see [... Read more
Published on February 9, 2009 by Robert Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Convincing Critique
Berkeley Professor Hubert Dreyfus assesses the predictions and subsequent failures of artificial intelligence from its inception in the 1960's with innovators like Turing to the... Read more
Published on January 13, 2009 by Steiner
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent example of accountability over expectation
I would love to see a working "HAL", and still hope we progress in the development in AI. However, the discovery of a General Problem Solver has always been elusive, and never... Read more
Published on September 21, 2007 by mamgeorge
5.0 out of 5 stars History proved Dreyfus right
Mr. Shallit, in a previous review, sounds exactly like a throwback to the previous era when glorified computer technicians started to take themselves seriously and bestowed upon... Read more
Published on February 28, 2006 by Me
2.0 out of 5 stars Creation science applied to artificial intelligence
Creation science is to evolution what this book is to artificial intelligence.
Creation "scientists" often have no credentials in the field they attack; similarly, Dreyfus is... Read more
Published on November 19, 2000 by Jeffrey O. Shallit
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