8/23/2007: We're back! Whew. I enjoyed the discussions we had. Now it in time to start thinking about and writing your paper.
7/20/2007: Here is some advice from a former student: "Don't let the
book intimidate you." After wading into the material, she found
herself intrigued and engaged. By the way, she did wonderfully!
7/11/2007: I slightly modified the reading assignments. Some of the web
readings are no longer available or have changed locations. I
added a few more essays from The Mind's I.
Welcome to my group's pages for Inoculum 2007. Here you will find
an overview of my intentions for our academic explorations, my
philosophy of learning, the grading policies, and most importantly your
reading assignments and writing assignments. If you are in my
group, please read this material carefully.
What are the limits of computational intelligence? What the
implications for human dignity arising from technological
advances? What are the appropriate limits of technology research
and development? Can a computer be intelligent? What does
it mean to be created in the image of God? These are some of the
questions we will consider in readings and discussions during this
year's Inoculum. Ultimately, I hope we get to know ourselves as
humans and as individuals a bit better. But along the way, I hope
we gain insights into appropriate uses of technology and problems of
Artificial Intelligence and the Philosophy of Mind.
I love to learn. I hope you do too. I particularly love
exploring the topics of Artificial Intelligence and the Philosophy of
Mind. For many of you, the Inoculum trip will be your first
introduction to college. Just as we will be physically laboring
up and down mountains, I hope that you will embrace the mental exercise
of wrestling with tough intellectual problems. Some of the
questions we'll encounter have stumped philosophers for 2500
years. Newer questions have appeared in association with advances
in technology but are nevertheless often rooted in the traditional
problems. This is one aspect of the nature of academic
work. Welcome to Westmont.
I intend to learn a lot this summer. Whether you end up learning
as much depends entirely on you. My philosophy of learning is
based on several
assumptions. First, learning happens as a result of asking
questions. Second, learning how to formulate good questions is
possibly the most useful skill that can be had. Third, asking the
questions is often more important than knowing the correct answers
off). Fourth, learning is most effective and efficient in a
community context where more than one person benefits from the
formulation and posing of a particular question followed by the search
Learning is an adventure. Have fun with it.
The primary text is The Mind's I
by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett. I think this is a
book with timeless articles that you will want to keep and pick up
again later in your college years and hopefully later in life as
well. The value I see in the book is in the questions that we're
forced to consider as we read. I encourage you to keep several
questions in mind as you read. What is the author trying to
accomplish? What are the author's assumptions and worldview
foundations? What do the author's points have to say about
humans? In what ways do these points conflict with my current
views on what it means to be created in the image of God?
For the articles in The Mind's I,
be sure to read the reflections as they often provide counterpoint
or increased context for deeper understanding. My target is
approximately 300 pages of reading; over five weeks, that is only 60
week. While that is clearly a modest goal, I hope that you will
the material so intriguing that you choose to read more than what is
From The Mind's I:
Introduction, pgs 3-22.
Chapter 3, "Rediscovering the Mind", pgs 34-49.
Chapter 4, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence", pgs 53-68.
Chapter 5, "The Turing Test: A coffeehouse conversation", pgs 69-95.
Chapter 7, "The Soul of Martha, a Beast", pgs 100-108.
Chapter 8, "The Soul of the Mark III Beast", pgs 109-115.
Chapter 9, "Spirit", pgs 119-123.
Chapter 11, "Prelude . . . Ant Fugue", pgs 149-201.
Chapter 12, "The Story of a Brain", pgs 202-213.
Chapter 17, "The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution", pgs 269-283.
Chapter 18, "The Seventh Sally or
How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good", pgs 287-295.
Chapter 20, "Is God a Taoist?", pgs 321-343.
Chapter 22, "Minds, Brains, and Programs", pgs 353-382.
Chapter 23, "An Unfortunate Dualist", pgs 383-388.
Chapter 24, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?", pgs 391-414.
Chapter 25, "An Epistemological Nightmare", pgs 415-429. Reflections on Chapter 26, pgs
Chapter 27, "Fiction", pgs 461-464.
Bring with you to the pre-trip group meeting on Thursday, Aug 9,
several short essays of your own. Select three of the five
questions below and write short-essay answers. (Note, however, you
should think about all five of the questions as they will serve as the
basis for our discussions during the trip. Your contribution to
discussion counts toward your grade.) You may use a maximum
of two (2) pages. They should be
single-spaced in 10pt font, double column format with 0.75 inch margins
(left and right, 1.25 inches top and bottom) and 0.625 inches between
columns. You may use this template to help ensure compliance with the formatting requirements.
To what extent does the Turing Test serve as an effective or accurate assessment of intelligence or "thinking"?
In what sense does it make sense to think of humans as thinking machines?
What consequences would you anticipate if artificial intelligence
researchers succeed at building systems that interact with humans and
behave at a "normal level of human competence" in a variety of areas?
If intelligent machines are ever produced, what would be the
appropriate ethical norms for structuring our interactions with them?
In light of the readings that
were assigned, what does it mean to be created in the image of
When answering these questions, support your positions. I want to see
with the readings. Do refer to essays from the text in your responses, but do not waste space with unnecessary or
extensive quotations. I've read the text -- I want to read
your thoughts on the questions. In other words, you may assume my
familiarity with the content as you make your points.
After we return from the trip and drawing upon the perspective gained from our
discussions, you will write a second paper on a topic to be announced
at the end of the trip. [Sorry, I know you'd like to get an early
start on it, but I really want you to write from a perspective that is
informed by our group discussions.] At the most, the final paper
be a maximum of four-pages,
The Inoculum counts for one academic credit and one PE
credit. Although a single credit may seem insignificant to you
(and thus you
may be tempted to blow off my assignments), it can be a very efficient
way to earn a few grade points. The quantity of work -- reading
and writing -- is certainly less than one fourth of a full semester
course, so you have the opportunity to earn more grade points for the
same amount of work. At the same time, I expect your
contributions to discussion and your papers to be very high
quality. This is not a freebie unit. However, if you engage
the readings, participate in the discussions, and write a clear and
concise paper, you'll pick up a number of grade points at a discount
I will grade your work based on several components. Your initial
written response will count for 20% of your grade. Discussion
participation during the trip will count for 30% of the grade and the
remaining 50% will be based on your final written paper. Your
contributions to discussion will be evaluated as to the relevance and
depth of thought. Your papers will be evaluated according to
conciseness, and content. The content is the result of your
about and reflecting upon the question and the readings. The
is how well you communicate your thinking and reflecting. Your
conciseness measures how efficiently you used words to communicate your
thoughts. Here is my abstract grading rubric:
An "A" paper has no typos and no textual problems (transitions, word
usage, agreement, etc.). It also reveals careful thought in
reasoning/argumentation and creative thought in drawing upon the
readings (and discussions during the trip in the case of your final paper).
A "B" paper might have a couple typos and might reveal careful thought
but lack creative insight to the readings or discussions.
A "C" paper would have significant textual problems or would lack
evidence of careful thinking about the question, readings and
A "D" paper would have significant textual problems and would lack
evidence of careful thought.
A "Failing" paper would, .... I don't even want to think about it
would lack evidence of any thinking or would be written in such a way
that it does not resemble English.
Remember, the object is to have fun. But learning is fun.
No matter where you are starting with respect to writing skills,
it is fun to see yourself improve! Writing might not be fun for
all of you, but try to have fun with it anyway. You might