ArticlePDF Available

Critical thinking and computer science: implicit and explicit connections


Abstract and Figures

Critical thinking is an essential skill for an educated society. Our experience as computer science educators in an environment with an explicit emphasis on critical thinking has led us to investigate the connection between the two. We describe examples of how critical thinking skills can be developed throughout the computer science curriculum, and suggest future avenues where the connection between critical thinking and computer science could be fruitfully explored.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Barry Fagin, Jim Harper, Leemon Baird, Steve Hadfield and Ricky Sward
US Air Force Academy Dept of Computer Science
2354 Fairchild Drive USAFA, CO 80840
Critical thinking is an essential skill for an educated society. Our experience as computer
science educators in an environment with an explicit emphasis on critical thinking has led
us to investigate the connection between the two. We describe examples of how critical
thinking skills can be developed throughout the computer science curriculum, and
suggest future avenues where the connection between critical thinking and computer
science could be fruitfully explored.
Critical thinking abilities are considered a cornerstone of academic maturity and a
trademark of a well-educated person. They are particularly important at our university, a
military institution where critical thinking skills are an explicitly desired educational
Our experience as computer scientists charged with developing critical thinking skills
in our students has led us to spend some time examining the connection between
computer science and critical thinking. This paper discusses how progress through the
discipline of computer science can develop critical thinking, and how to assist that
development through carefully chosen exercises. We believe the connection between
CS and critical thinking is stronger than the literature would suggest.
Paul [7] describes critical thinking as an intellectual discipline for examining
information and determining validity. It is based on universal intellectual values that
transcend divisions of subject matter. Three key parts of critical thinking are clarity,
accuracy, and relevance.
Clarity is crucial to understanding the information received. Questions such as “can
you elaborate on your comment” can determine if the information is clear. Accuracy
probes the gaps between the information and factual reality. Questions like “how can we
find out if that is really true” can help determine accuracy. Relevance helps ensure that
the information received is pertinent. A skilled critical thinker can quickly distinguish
relevant facts from red herrings.
Presented at CCSC-SC 2006 Conference
Critical thinkers are also skeptical [5]. Every commander knows the poisonous effect
rumor can have on an organization. Skepticism and critical thinking are the best
antidotes to rumor, particularly in the internet age [2]. This makes the development of
critically thinking officers vitally important to the nation.
It is a common perception outside the armed forces that the military does not value
critical thinking1. In fact, the opposite is true.
One of us [Harper] taught critical thinking in the Air Force ROTC Program. AFROTC
course materials on critical thinking emphasize the inculcation of habits of thought and
action: The desire for clarity, accuracy, and relevance, the ability to detect logical
fallacies, and the examination of implicit assumptions.
These skills are vital to officers because of the unique nature of the profession of arms.
As part of normal day-to-day activities, members of the military may have in their
possession weapons of considerable lethality. Even officers without direct access to
weapons systems may wield considerable power and influence, particularly as computer
scientists where they may be network administrators or information warfare specialists.
The importance of a functioning chain of command in wartime, combined with the
societal need for confidence that military force will be used only when authorized under
lawful civilian control, create two opposing tendencies that officers must carefully
balance. Lawful orders must be obeyed, but unlawful orders must not. Concern with this
tension often emerges in popular culture2.
Critical thinking skills enable officers to walk the middle path, and make them more
likely to accomplish the mission. Officers who think critically are less likely to act on
rumor, are more likely to give their superiors tough messages when they need to, and are
more likely to make the right decision at the right time. They are also more likely to
spend public money correctly [2], to generate and respond to criticism effectively, and to
lead with wisdom and judgment. Officers are obligated to apply critical thinking to all
tasks in the profession of arms.
Critical thinking skills can be cultivated in many other ways besides programming
exercises, and at many other points in the curriculum besides the introductory courses.
We discuss a few examples here.
Figure 2 shows a simplified view of the CS major at the Air Force Academy:
1 Holsti, in [5], reported almost 80% of civilian leaders without military experience described military culture as
“rigid”. Only about 15% considered the term “creative” appropriate.
2 See for example Columbia Pictures’ “A Few Good Men” (1992) or Hollywood Pictures’ “Crimson Tide” (1995).
Presented at CCSC-SC 2006 Conference
Comp uter Security
and Informat ion
Secure Networks/
Cyberdef ense
Intellig enc e
Introduction to
Data Abstrac tion Computer
Organization and
Archite cture
Languages Operating
Databases and Web
Programming Networks
Algo rithms Compilers Software
Engineering I
Engineering II
Figure 1: The USAFA computer science major
Lines indicate a prerequisite relationship from the course above to the course below3;
electives are outlined in dashes. The program is CSAB/ABET accredited; most readers
at 4-year undergraduate institutions should recognize where their corresponding courses
fit in. In the sections below we offer a few examples of how we try to inculcate critical
thinking using topics drawn from the course syllabus. We hope these exercises will show
how critical thinking skills can be encouraged naturally throughout the CS curriculum,
and encourage further work in this area.
5.1 Programming languages
Students in our program use Ada for their first and principal programming language
[11]. Their exposure to other languages is normally as juniors in the programming
languages course.
For their first C program, students write a simplified Ballistic Missile Defense discrete
event simulator and then run it against scenarios using different engagement strategies.
They are then asked to analyze the results and draw conclusions. In addition to the
software development goals, our intent is to give them the opportunity to practice their
analytical and critical thinking skills within a military context.
When the course turns to object oriented languages and toolkits, we discuss both the
Java and .NET frameworks and ask probing questions regarding similarities and
differences. The goal is to lead them down certain paths to see if they are asking the
3 Software Engineering does not have formal prerequisites in the CS major because it is open to students in other
disciplines. The only formal prerequisite is senior standing.
Presented at CCSC-SC 2006 Conference
right questions to get the full perspective. Many times this discussion will lead to a
critical review of open source versus strictly proprietary capabilities.
5.2 Operating systems
A typical OS course includes lessons on process scheduling, the standard process state
machine model (e.g. blocked, waiting, running), and scheduling algorithms. This
material can be difficult to teach, because students consider it uninteresting, and tend to
miss the subtleties of how processes are handled.
Last fall, we tried a new approach using the game "foxes and hounds". Our version is
played on a wraparound grid of arbitrary size, with one student playing the fox, and the
rest playing hounds:
Figure 2: Foxes and Hounds
The hounds act as a team and try to catch the fox by moving into its square. The fox
tries to evade capture for as long as possible. The fox and two of the hounds can move
two spaces on each turn. We add a twist to the standard game by having the instructor
roll a die. If the result is a 1, then the player that just moved must freeze. On a 6, all
frozen players become active again.
This game maps well to the process management state diagram. Students decide the
rules for when pieces are to move. Coming up with rules for a fair game is equivalent to
coming up with a good scheduling algorithm. In the process, they discover how to think
critically about process management issues.
5.3 Artificial intelligence
Krishna Rao [5] discusses the promotion of critical thinking in an AI course through
the presentation of ill-defined problems and the use of experimental testing. We concur
that this is important, and use programming assignments that do this. But AI also
provides an excellent opportunity to promote critical thinking through the use of essay
writing. We assign four papers to read, two “pro-AI” and two “anti-AI”, and require
students to write essays on them. The papers are:
1) Computing Machinery and Intelligence, by Alan Turing [12]
2) Minds, Brains and Programs, by John Searle [10]
3) The Godelian Argument, by J.R. Lucas [6]
4) Robots, Re-evolving Mind, by Hans Moravec [8]
Typical questions from assignments include:
Presented at CCSC-SC 2006 Conference
“What are potential arguments against Turing’s thesis and how does he respond?”
“Describe the ‘Chinese room’ example.”
“Are Searle’s arguments sufficient to refute the possibility of thinking machines?”
Students approach these assignments with a common framework of questions. What is
the author's claim? Are there unstated assumptions? Are there implicit value judgments?
Where is the author not thinking clearly? Where are counterarguments not considered?
Feedback is extremely positive; students consistently rate AI as the most enjoyable
class we teach.
5.4 Software engineering
Our CS “capstone” experience is a two-semester course in software engineering. It
exposes students to a large problem they cannot solve on their own given existing time
The intent of this exercise is to force students to question their assumptions of software
development. Class teams struggle with the organization and division of labor. They
question, for example, what a program manager does day-to-day and why they even need
one. Fortunately, since some of them may become program managers, they eventually
come around.
Students also struggle when it's time for software integration, and learn valuable
lessons about unit testing, integration testing, and delivery. They question the processes
that they have been using and learn new approaches for the development of software.
These are all lessons learned through the development and refinement of critical thinking
5.5 Other issues in upper level courses
As the curriculum becomes more advanced and programming projects become more
challenging, implicit assumptions that lead to errors in programs become both harder to
identify and more important to discover. Typically, these assumptions concern complex
components of a computer system (such as I/O devices, networks, and OS internals) to
which students have only recently been exposed. In these cases, students are likely to
implicitly adopt simplistic assumptions about component and user behavior that are not
accurate descriptions of true performance. Student critical thinking skills are further
developed during their upperclass years by requiring them to create correct software that
tests these assumptions directly.
Our experience as computer science faculty at a military institution, where critical
thinking is an explicitly desired outcome, has led us to carefully explore the relationship
between CS and critical thinking skills. We have learned that these skills can be
developed both implicitly, through the practice of questioning assumptions by debugging
software, and explicitly, through the creation of assignments specifically designed to test
critical thinking skills.
Presented at CCSC-SC 2006 Conference
The rich connections between CS and critical thinking are worth exploring further.
How might we assess the effect of an increased emphasis on critical thinking skills? Can
educators develop a resource for CS exercises that promote critical thinking? Do the
ideas suggested here generalize to high school CS education? The evidence suggestions
the connection between CS and critical thinking warrants further attention from the
computer science education community. We look forward to further work in this area.
The authors are grateful to Mike Collins of the National Security Agency for his
assistance in the preparation of this paper.
[1] Fagin, B. Technology and the values of a liberal education. Academic Questions
(Fall 1999).
[2] Fagin, B., Baird, L. and Schweitzer, D. Skepticism and cryptography. Work in
[3] Graham, L. and Metaxas, P.T. Of course it’s true; I saw it on the internet!
Communications of the ACM, 46,5 (May 2003) 71-75.
[4] Holsti, O. Of chasms and convergences: Attitudes and beliefs of civilians and
military elites at the start of a new millennium. In Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-
Military Gap and American National Security, Feaver and Kohn eds, MIT Press,
2001, pp 15-101 . (ISBN 0262062232)
[5] Krishna Rao, M.R.K. Infusing critical thinking skills into content of an AI course. In
Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Technology in Computer Science
Education (ITiCSE’05) (Monte de Capaica, Portugal, June 27-29 2005), pp 173-177.
[6] Lucas, J. The Godelian Argument. Truth Journal, 14 July 2002.
[7] Moore, B., and Parker, P. Critical Thinking. McGraw-Hill, 2003. (ISBN:
[8] Moravec, H. Robots, re-evolving mind. Cerebrum, 3,2 (Spring 2001) pp. 34-49
(invited by Walter Donway).
[9] Paul, R. Critical Thinking: What every person needs to survive in a rapidly
changing world. Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique, Sonoma CA,
1990. (ISBN: 0944583040)
[10] Searle, J. Minds, brains, and programs. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 3.,
1980, Cambridge University Press.
[11] Sward, R., Carlisle, M. et al. The Case for Ada at the USAF Academy, In
Proceedings of the 2003 ACM SIGAda Conference (SIGADA-03) (San Diego CA,
USA Dec 7-11 2003), pp 68-70.
[12] Turing, A.M., Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 59, pp 433-460, 1
Presented at CCSC-SC 2006 Conference
... In their computer science major, Fagin, Harper, Baird, Hadfield and Sward (2006) outline 3 examples of online tools which effectively enhanced students analytical, application and evaluation skills. For example, in the networking course, students compared Java and .NET frameworks using the Online Discussion Forum; in their first programming course, students implemented different scenarios in a simulation, analyzed the results and drew conclusions applying what they found; in the software engineering course, students critiqued open source versus proprietary software while recommending their preferences, thus enhancing their evaluation skills (also in the online discussion forum). ...
... Past research delineates the following benefits of Online Discussion Forums: 1) higher participation by students; 2) more in -depth discussion of topics; 3) ability to easily form small group discussions; and 4) feedback for students and faculty about what students understand and where they need clarification (Balaji et al. 2010;Brodie, Karat & Feng, 2005;Fagin et al., 2006;Mazzolini et al. 2007;Menchaca & Bekele, 2008). McDuffie and Slavit (2003) go on to suggest that the dialogical nature of an online discussion provides a forum for students to share their reflections with other participants in their introductory math classes. ...
... This finding supports the importance of engaging the student in communications and dialog in online discussions. It provides evidence that facilitating discourse and delving into topics can have a positive effect on student performance measures, such as the final exam and course grade, corroborating previous findings (Dennen, Darabi & Smith, 2007;Fagin et al., 2006, Li-Jen et al., 2012Menchaca et al., 2008). The final exam, it should be noted, was a timed proctored exam and the mean score was fairly low, 68%. ...
Full-text available
Information and Communication Technology tools are being rapidly adopted in the online learning environment for their learning effectiveness based upon theories of higher-order skill learning styles, problem-based learning, engagement, frequent feedback and persistence (element in motivation). In this study, 133 students used the tools of an online computer simulation, online discussion forum, and frequent quizzing in a networking computer science course. Students who persisted (at least 10 hours spent in the lab) and successfully developed higher order skills in the simulation (lab scores), fully engaged in the online discussion forum (discussion grades) and received frequent positive feedback (mean quizzes score) were examined for their results on the performance measures in the course (midterm exam, final exam, final grade). Significant results were found in the t-test, correlation and regression analysis between persistence (time spent in lab) and skill achievement in the computer lab simulation (lab scores). In addition, simulation skill achievement, discussion board engagement, and frequent feedback through quizzing impacted certain specific exams and overall performance, in general.
... Using a variety of instructional media in the ODF leads to enhanced learning as well as shapes students' attitudes, expectations and perceptions of the online learning experience (Balagi et al., 2010;Pena-Shaff et al., 2005). Past research delineates the following benefits of ODF: 1) higher participation by students; 2) more in-depth discussion of topics; 3) ability to easily form small group discussions; and 4) feedback for students and faculty about what students understand and where they need clarification (Balaji et al. 2010;Brodie, Karat & Feng, 2005;Fagin et al., 2006;Mazzolini et al. 2007;Menchaca & Bekele, 2008). McDuffie and Slavit (2003) go on to suggest that the dialogical nature of an online discussion provides a forum for students to share their reflections with other participants in their introductory math classes. ...
... This finding supports the importance of the role of instructor in facilitating the discussion in the ODF. It provides evidence that facilitating discourse using questions that promote higher-order critical thinking skills can have a positive effect on student achievement of enhanced critical thinking skills such as application and analysis, corroborating findings by Dennen, Darabi and Smith (2007), Fagin et al. (2006), Li-Jen and Bennett (2012 and Menchaca and Bekele (2008). ...
Full-text available
Page 220 - Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, Volume 45, 2018 ABSTRACT The purpose of this research is to analyze the optimal pedagogical tools and methods for teaching quantitative disciplines in the newest delivery modes of blended and online education. This study will focus on a comprehensive literature review of quantitative disciplines in business and related areas. Which pedagogies are the same and which are different based on discipline? Practices, tools and approaches that are used and deemed effective in online learning will be overviewed and analyzed across disciplines in this exploratory research. The top rated skills and competencies for each quantitative discipline will be reviewed and summarized for similarities and differences. From this preliminary research, specific research proposals will be recommended for future research on quantitative discipline-specific best practices in the blended/online delivery of such courses. (PDF) Student Performance and Critical Thinking Skills: Online Discussion Boards in a Computer Science Operating Systems Course. Available from: [accessed Sep 04 2020].
... Graduates of the future will need to deal with the unknown and solve problems that may not even exist currently (Boud & Falchikov, 2006). Critical thinking is crucial to achieving this outcome and is seen by some as the trademark of a well-educated person and as important for becoming an active and engaged employee and global citizen (Facione, 2010; Fagin et al., 2006; Moore, 2004). In Australia all universities are required to state what graduate attributes they develop in their students. ...
... Graduates of the future will need to deal with the unknown and solve problems that may not even exist currently (Boud & Falchikov, 2006). Critical thinking is crucial to achieving this outcome and is seen by some as the trademark of a well-educated person and as important for becoming an active and engaged employee and global citizen (Facione, 2010;Fagin et al., 2006;Moore, 2004). In Australia all universities are required to state what graduate attributes they develop in their students. ...
Full-text available
10.5539/ass.v7n4p26 Support for this project was provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd. Abstract Critical thinking is a crucial skill that students need to develop while at university. It is important for a well-educated person to be able to make well-informed judgements, be able to explain their reasoning and be able to solve unknown problems. This paper proposes that critical thinking can and should be developed from the first year of university in order for students to cope with their future studies and to be of most use to future employers. The paper describes five exercises that can be used to develop critical thinking in first year students.
... According to Fagin and colleagues (Fagin, Harper, Baird, Hadfield, & Sward, 2006), three are the key parts of critical thinking: clarity (the ability to understand the information received), accuracy (the ability to investigate the distance between the information and factual reality), and relevance (the ability to evaluate if the information received is pertinent). ...
Despite the significant emphasis placed on incorporating 21st century skills into the educational framework, particularly at the primary level, recent scholarly works indicate considerable variation in the implementation of these skills across different countries and regions, suggesting a demand for further research specifically focusing on primary education. The indications of the Digicomp framework and 21st-century skills in Europe have outlined the key competences for lifelong learning needed for all citizens, including teachers and students. In this perspective, Education plays a fundamental role in ensuring that citizens acquire the required skills. The objective in the common European framework is clear: to initiate a transition from the culture of knowledge to the culture of competence. Nowadays, technological advancement allows the researchers to create and combine different frameworks with the perspective of an even more tailored, and engaged education, some examples derived from the implementation of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), in the combination of Gamification and AI, or the development of Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) to foster and create an even more personalized learning and teaching. Following these premises, in this paper, we want to point out new research reflections and perspectives that could help researchers, teachers, educators (and consequently students) to reflect on the introduction of new technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, robot tutors) and on how these can affect on human behavioral development and on the acquisition of new skills and competences (Specifically: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Computational Thinking) for the educational context. The analysis carried on, suggests a perspective on how creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving can be effective in promoting computational thinking, and how Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be an aid instrument to teachers in the fostering of creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving in schools and educational contexts.
... Likewise, the instruments for evaluating critical thinking with the greatest cover are generic and standardised [8], and do not consider the disciplinary context or the mode of study. The scarce evidence available is The associate editor coordinating the review of this manuscript and approving it for publication was Mark Lee. insufficient to establish a consensus on how to evaluate the components of critical thinking in students on courses related with software production, leading to contradictory results [9]- [12]. ...
Full-text available
Critical thinking consists in analysing and evaluating the coherence of reasoning. This ability is crucial when we talk about software quality (SQ). SQ is closely related with the engineer’s ability to judge and discriminate between solutions correctly, so students are required to analyse, evaluate and draw conclusions. Critical thinking, therefore, becomes a crucial part of the training of software engineers. The problem arises from the diversity of proposals and the lack of rigour in existing experiences, making it difficult to find specific recommendations, especially in online contexts. This article reports a systematic mapping study (SMS), the purpose of which was to detect, organise and characterise specific dimensions in online teaching-learning of critical thinking for software engineering. Based on the results of the SMS, we propose a preliminary framework for the evaluation of critical thinking in the training of software engineers in a context of online higher education. It is expected that this proposal will serve as a basis for instructors of the discipline when evaluating critical thinking in a context of online teaching.
... Our experience of computer science teachers in an environment with a clear emphasis on critical thinking has prompted us to explore the relationship between them. We describe examples of how critical thinking skills can be developed as part of an informatics curriculum, and suggest future paths where the relationship between critical thinking and computer science is fruitfully explored [9]. Janet G. Donald also addressed the development of intellectual skills in higher education. ...
... Ennis (1996, p. 364) explains critical thinking is a process that aims so that we can make decisions that make sense so that what we think is best about a truth we can do correctly. Critical thinking is an important skill needed by students to be able to improve their ability to make judgments while also being able to inform them well, be able to explain their reasons and be able to solve unknown problems (Facione, 2010;Fagin, et al., 2006;Moore, 2004). In line with this statement, Scriven & Paul (2004); Masek & Yamin (2012) mentioned that critical thinking is the ability to analyze and evaluate information and ask important questions. ...
Full-text available
p>This study aims to determine the effectiveness of the mathematics learning model to stimulate critical thinking on student mathematics learning outcomes compared to the direct learning model in class XII science students of senior high school in Pacitan. The type of research is quasi-experimental, with a population of all students of class XII IPA of SMA N 2 Pacitan. The sample consists of 28 students of class XII IPA-1 as an experimental class and class XII of IPA-2 of 28 students as a control class. The sampling technique was purposive random sampling. Data collection techniques using the test. The test is a student's initial ability test and a student's mathematics learning outcomes test. The analysis technique of the data used in this study is the t-test, while the analysis of prerequisite tests includes tests of normality and homogeneity tests. The results showed that mathematics learning using the mathematics learning model to stimulate critical thinking was more effectively applied in learning compared to the direct learning model of the mathematics learning outcomes of high school students in terms of the results of the t-test analysis and the average test scores of learning outcomes.</p
... Furthermore, courses that emphasize the development of problemsolving skills and logical reasoning support the objectives of curricula grounded in liberal education (Ellison, 1980). Clarity in problem definition, accuracy of proposed algorithms, and the relevance of both input data and output information, require significant critical thinking and analysis (Fagin, 2006). Norris and Jackson (1992) investigated the effects of a BASIC programming course on students' critical thinking and mental alertness and found significant improvement in students' critical thinking skills at the conclusion of the course. ...
With declining interest and enrollments in computer programming courses, it has been necessary to consolidate course offerings resulting in a particular class consisting of different learning objectives for its representative student constituencies. This paper details the design and implemen-tation of a first course in computer programming with a liberal education focus, but populated by computing majors, non-majors, and working professionals. Careful attention must be given to the liberal education theme and the proper instructional methodologies in order to meet the learning objectives of these three distinct student groups within the same classroom. Additionally, pragmatic teaching maxims will be provided to help ensure success in offering not only this programming course, but also any liberal education computer information systems course populated by different student groups with different associated course expectations.
The present study attempted to examine students’ learning gains in critical thinking, problem solving, and effective communication after 1-year university study under a new 4-year undergraduate curriculum based on students’ performance on the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+). One hundred and fifty freshmen and 150 sophomores at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) completed the CLA+ in 2013–2014 academic year. Results showed that sophomores had better performance in CLA+ than freshmen on problem solving, effective communication, and critical thinking. Compared with freshmen, fewer sophomores were classified as ‘Below Basic’ at mastering the related skills. The findings support the effectiveness of the new 4-year undergraduate curriculum, particularly the General University Requirements, in promoting students’ development in desired graduate attributes. However, students’ language barrier might affect their CLA+ scores which led to the small effect size in the differences between freshmen and sophomores.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper describes our experience with selecting Ada as the primary programming language for Computer Science and Computer Engineering majors at the USAF Academy. We have decided to teach Ada in the first three courses of these majors for the next few years. Our criteria for selecting Ada are based on features of the language (such as strong typing, lack of single-character errors, and case insensitivity), features of the compiler, (such as error messages and warnings), and features of the overall development experience (such as development environments, availability of textbooks, GUI development support, and industry acceptance). We compared Ada with Java, C++, and C#.
Full-text available
Students use the Net as a primary source of information, usually with little or no regard as to the accuracy of that information.
This article can be viewed as an attempt to explore the consequences of two propositions. (I) Intentionality in human beings (and animals) is a product of causal features of the brain. I assume this is an empirical fact about the actual causal relations between mental processes and brains. It says simply that certain bran processes are sufficient for intentionality. (2) Instantiating a computer program is never by itself a sufficient condition of intentionality. The main argument of this paper is directed at establishing this claim. The form of the argument is to show how a human agent could instantiate the program and still not have the relevant intentionality. These two propositions have the following consequences: (3) The explanation of how the brain produces intentionality cannot be that it does it by instantiating a computer program. This is a strict logical consequence of 1 and 2. (4) Any mechanism capable of producing intentionality must have causal powers equal to those of the brain. This is meant to be a trivial consequence of 1. (5) Any attempt literally to create intentionality artificially (strong AI) could not succeed just by designing programs but would have to duplicate the causal powers of the human brain. This follows from 2 and 4. 'Could a machine think?' On the argument advanced here only a machine could think, and only very special kinds of machines, namely brains and machines with internal causal powers equivalent to those of brains. And that is why strong AI has little to tell us about thinking, since it is not about machines but about programs, and no program by itself is sufficient for thinking.
I propose to consider the question, “Can machines think?”♣ This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms “machine” and “think”. The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous. If the meaning of the words “machine” and “think” are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, “Can machines think?” is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll.
Conference Paper
This paper describes some of our efforts in infusing critical thinking skills into a course on artificial intelligence. Six thinking skills: parts-whole analysis, compare-and-contrast, decision making, causal explanation, prediction and generalization have been introduced at appropriate places in the course. Using a set of carefully chosen examples, we demonstrate that critical thinking skills can be naturally introduced in the course content of computer curricula at tertiary level. Our analysis shows that infusion of critical thinking skills into course content and their explicit introduction stimulates students thinking and improves their learning ability.
The Godelian Argument
  • J Lucas
Lucas, J. The Godelian Argument. Truth Journal, 14 July 2002.