Dreyfus on the “Fringe”: information processing, intelligent activity, and the future of thinking machines

Jeffrey White*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


From his preliminary analysis in 1965, Hubert Dreyfus projected a future much different than those with which his contemporaries were practically concerned, tempering their optimism in realizing something like human intelligence through conventional methods. At that time, he advised that there was nothing “directly” to be done toward machines with human-like intelligence, and that practical research should aim at a symbiosis between human beings and computers with computers doing what they do best, processing discrete symbols in formally structured problem domains. Fast-forward five decades, and his emphasis on the difference between two essential modes of processing, the unconscious yet purposeful mode fundamental to situated human cognition, and the “minded” sense of conscious processing characterizing symbolic reasoning that seems to lend itself to explicit programming, continues into the famous Dreyfus–McDowell debate. The present memorial reviews Dreyfus’ early projections, asking if the fears that punctuate current popular commentary on AI are warranted, and in light of these if he would deliver similar practical advice to researchers today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-312
Number of pages12
JournalAI & society
Issue number2
Early online date29 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Fringe consciousness
  • Future of AI
  • Hubert Dreyfus
  • Artificial intelligence


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