Tech Prophecy And The Underappreciated Causal Power Of Ideas

Steven Pinker at his own website:

Artificial intelligence is an existence proof of one of the great ideas in human history: that the abstract realm of knowledge, reason, and purpose does not consist of an élan vital or immaterial soul or miraculous powers of neural tissue. Rather, it can be linked to the physical realm of animals and machines via the concepts of information, computation, and control. Knowledge can be explained as patterns in matter or energy that stand in systematic relations with states of the world, with mathematical and logical truths, and with one another. Reasoning can be explained as transformations of that knowledge by physical operations that are designed to preserve those relations. Purpose can be explained as the control of operations to effect changes in the world, guided by discrepancies between its current state and a goal state. Naturally evolved brains are just the most familiar systems that achieve intelligence through information, computation, and control. Humanly designed systems that achieve intelligence vindicate the notion that information processing is sufficient to explain it—the notion that the late Jerry Fodor dubbed the computational theory of mind.

More here.