Document Type


Presentation Date

Spring 3-15-2018

Conference Name

COAS Internal Distinguished Lecture Series

Conference Location

Indiana U-Purdue U Fort Wayne (IPFW)


Computer automation puts almost 50% of all jobs in the US economy at risk. Recent advances in machine learning have made headlines around the globe, as computer programs accomplish astonishing feats: they beat us at chess and Go; they are better than doctors at diagnosing rare diseases; and they drive cars more safely than we do. But it is an open and controversial question whether these systems understandor will ever be able to understand what they do, nor is it clear whether words have or ever will have meaningto them. The question is open, primarily because we have not yet operationalized the meaning of meaningwhich prevents us from putting these questions to an empirical test. The talk will shed some light on the question of machine intelligence from the perspectives of both philosophy and mathematics.

The Austrian mathematicianKurt Gödel proved a famoustheoremfrom which it follows thatanycomputer program faces principled limitations, which,for rigorous mathematical reasons, cannot be overcome.Some have argued, Gödelamong them, that thisresultshows the human mind to be superiorto any machine. Their arguments, however, are considered flawed andwon’t bepursuedin thistalk.Rather, we will home in onwhatseems to follow from Gödel’s result,namely, thata computer program can never prove itself to be free-of-error.Providedthis werethe case, wouldwebeprepared to say the computerprogram understands such a statements or that itknows what itmeans?After analyzingconcrete examples, we investigate whether any insights so obtained generalize orare able to shed light on the more general question of whether SIRI does or any computer program ever will truly understand what we mean.


Gödel, Tarski, Sellars, Dilthey, AI, linguistic meaning, meaning of meaning


Artificial Intelligence and Robotics | Logic and Foundations | Logic and Foundations of Mathematics | Philosophy of Language | Philosophy of Mind