Inoculum 2004
Minds, Technology, Humans, and God

Wayne Iba

updated 9/27/2004

Update: Main paper writing assignment is finalized and due Oct 1, with a draft due Sept 17.  (Follow the link for details.)

Welcome to my group's pages for Inoculum 2004.  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 Aritificial 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 philosphers 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 alot 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 right questions is often more imporant than knowing the correct answers (right 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 for answers.

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 classic 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 pages a week.  While that is clearly a modest goal, I hope that you will find the material so intriguing that you choose to read more than what is assigned.

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 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.
Reflections on Chapter 26, pgs 457-460.
Chpater 27, "Fiction", pgs 461-464.

From the Web:
Techno Sapiens, from Christianity Today.
Converting Matter into Mind, by William Dembski.
The Matrix as Metaphysics, by David Chalmers.


Bring with you a two-page (maximum) single-spaced response to the question, "In light of the readings that were assigned, what does it mean to be created in the image of God?"  Print your response double-sided on a single sheet of paper.  Support your positions.  Ideally, I want to see contact with the readings, but do not waste space with unneccessary or extensive quotations.  I've read the readings -- I want to read your thoughts on the question.  In other words, you may assume my familiarity with the content as you make your points.

After we return from the trip and 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 will be a maximum of four-pages, double spaced.

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 freebee 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 overall effort.

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 clarity, conciseness, and content.  The content is the result of your thinking about and reflecting upon the question and the readings.  The clarity is how well you communicate your thinking and reflecting.  Your conciseness measures how efficiently you used words to communicate your thoughts.