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Hubert L. Dreyfus, Philosopher of the Limits of Computers, Dies at 87

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Hubert L. Dreyfus in 1999.

Hubert L. Dreyfus, whose 1972 book What Computers Cant Do made him a scourge, and eventually an inspiration, to researchers in artificial intelligence.

Credit: Michael J. Okoniewski

Hubert L. Dreyfus, a philosopher whose 1972 book "What Computers Can't Do" made him a scourge and eventually an inspiration to researchers in artificial intelligence, died on April 22 at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 87.

The University of California, Berkeley, where he was a longtime professor of philosophy, said the cause was cancer.

Dreyfus became interested in artificial intelligence in the late 1950s, when he began teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He often brushed shoulders with scientists trying to turn computers into reasoning machines.

"They said they could program computers to be intelligent like people," he recalled in a 2005 interview with the blog Full-Tilt Boogie. "They came to my course and said, more or less: 'We don't need Plato and Kant and Descartes anymore. That was all just talk. We're empirical. We're going to actually do it.'"

He added: "I really wanted to know, could they do it? If they could, it was very important. If they couldn't, then human beings were different than machines, and that was very important."


From The New York Times
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