As technology develops, will it ever make sense to say that a computer knows things ?

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and other such forms of technology, the notion of computers being able to ‘know’ things is gathering support. However, I disagree with this statement. I’m going to explore my line of reasoning below.

The aforementioned school of thought holds that ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’ mean the same thing. A computer is a device that has been fed information over time. Although it is able to provide to us the ‘information’ or the ‘facts’ that we ask for, it does not really ‘know’ what it is providing. A computer has metaphorical compartments into which it has categorised the information it possesses. However, it is unable to draw connections between different information pieces. For example, we lay out a fact that ‘In order to produce the required torque to rotate the object with the least force possible, the point of application of a force should be at the farthest point from the axis of rotation’. A computer just displays this. However, we humans think ‘ah! This is why the handle of a door is towards the open end’. This interrelating of what we read with what we have experienced is something that is subconsciously done by a human who ‘knows’ something. A computer-an inanimate object that has been programmed to do what we want it to do- is unable to do this.

Being able to ‘know’ something does not mean regurgitating information at the drop of a hat. I think of knowing as the ability to analyse and comprehend a particular piece of information. I feel that an individual with the potential to make sense of the information at hand truly ‘knows’ something. For example, if we lay out a fact that “Donald Trump is the President of the United States”. A computer is able to display it. However, it does not know who Donald Trump is as it is programmed to just show A on receiving a command B.

Thirdly, ‘knowing’ something, in other words, means being aware of the fact that you understand the said something. Awareness and Understanding are concepts that are only related to living organisms that have a consciousness and emotions. This is what differentiates a human being from a computer. The process of getting to know something involves questioning what we are presented with- yet again, another trait that computers do not possess. After all, wires and memory chips crammed into a box cannot simulate the human consciousness.

In conclusion, I feel that we can never really say that a computer ‘knows’ something . Information is a subset of knowledge-a complex concept that is acquired through a variety of avenues such as emotions, intuitions, past experiences, inquiry, among others. Anything that is inanimate cannot give insights, think critically, and apply what it knows when presented with a tough problem and other qualities that are essential indicators that someone knows something.

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