Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst (2002)

Abstract
Is it possible to construct a machine that can act of its own accord? There are a number of skeptical arguments which conclude that autonomous machine agency is impossible. Yet if autonomous machine agency is impossible, then serious doubt is cast on the possibility of autonomous human action, at least on the widely held assumption that some form of materialism is true. The purpose of this dissertation is to show that autonomous machine agency is possible, thereby showing that the autonomy of human action is compatible with materialism. ;I proceed as follows. Chapter 1 casts the problem of autonomous machine agency. Chapter 2 sets out the skeptic's case against autonomous machine agency by canvassing arguments against the possibility of machine agency and arguments against the possibility of autonomous machine agency. Chapter 3 begins work on a theory of autonomous machine agency by developing and defending axioms of a theory of agency from thought experiments and examples. Chapter 4 expands the theory of agency to a theory of autonomous agency by adding axioms of autonomy. ;The axioms of autonomous agency contain the primitive terms 'belief', 'desire', and 'deliberation', which require further explication if the theory is to be of any use in arguing for the possibility of autonomous machine agency. Chapters 5 and 6 take up this challenge by developing mathematically tractable axioms of deliberation, belief, and desire. ;Chapter 7 completes the theory by developing axioms of mechanism derived from the substantial literature in the foundations of computer science. Chapter 8 employs the resulting theory of autonomous machine agency to show just how the functional prerequisites of autonomous agency can in principle be met by machines, thereby demonstrating the possibility of autonomous machine agency. ;Chapter 9 serves as a cautionary postscript. In spite of having shown that autonomous machine agency is possible, the implications are not always happy for current efforts in artificial intelligence or current philosophical theories of autonomous human agency. Nevertheless, the argument for autonomous machine agency suggests several research programs at the nexus of Philosophy of Mind and Artificial Intelligence
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Minds, Brains, and Programs.John R. Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Harvard University Press.
Intelligence Without Representation.Rodney A. Brooks - 1991 - Artificial Intelligence 47 (1--3):139-159.

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