I don't think I agree with this statementl. There are all kinds of examples of "functions" that far exceed the capabilities of its basic instructions.
My current job involves speech recognition. The most basic instructions are AND and NOR gates. We can make these very simple capabilities "listen" to speech and turn it into text.
Speech can be represented as a binary string and if you have a single basic component that is a NAND gate you could theoretically evolve a computer program to do anything in the realm of software. This is what I'm talking about when I refer to "capabilities" of your basic instructions.
Usually though, your basic instructions are not NAND gates and your basic representation is not a binary string representing a compiled program!
Likewise, human intelligence is apparently "caused" by electrochemical signals through neurons in our brains. These basic instructions (i.e. electrochemical signals passing from neuron to neuron) are not that complex. We (meaning any graduate student in science) understand the basic chemistry quite well.
It depends on what exactly you refer to when you say intelligence. The undisputed facts here are that the brain is largely composed of neurons connected in a tangled web of synapses that propagate electrochemical signals via ligand-gated channels and yadda yadda. Also that these are used to perform many computational tasks.
By rearranging the energy state of a system, it is certainly possible to create a machine capable of acting in an intelligent way. When I refer to the energy state I am referring to the complete state of all energy (and hence matter) involved in the system. Clearly by rearranging matter we can create computers and also humans with brains.
However as I see it there is quite a strong PARADOX existing here according to current thinking. For mathematical analogy which I think is quite accurate, consider trying to find the linear combination of 3 vectors in R^3 that represents an arbitrary vector in R^4. Can't do it.
The problem here is that awareness/consciousness is not defined in terms of the energy state of the system and there is no explanation why a certain specific configuration of energy would suddenly, completely out of the blue, give rise to awareness.
You might counter by saying that there are many phenomena that seem to arise in this way. But I don't see that there is anything other than awareness that has this problem. Electromagnetic field interactions are all describable in terms of how they affect the energy state of the system. The field is a potential for exerting forces on other particles and since the locations and distributions of these particles are responsible from everything from light to magnets and electrical current that is completely explainable. But in terms of awareness, you cannot define awareness in terms of how it affects the energy state of other particles.
Can our intelligence be thought of as a "program" that is not limited by the most basic instructions that it codes for? The fact that we understand the basic chemistry doesn't mean that we understand how 'intelligence' stems from this chemistry.
Well, before we were talking about the limits of what could be evolved through a genetic algorithm. In the case of humans, the limits of what can be evolved are defined by the laws of physics at the scale of proteins and molecular interactions. It is such a large domain that it is not really forseable. Usually GA has a much smaller potential domain where the entire solution space can pretty much be imagined. For example if you were evolving a 100 bit string where each bit corresponded to how you were going to attach a set of limbs and set up controllers to evolve a form of walking robot in a virtual 3d world.
Unless, you posit a "supernatural' part of intelligence that transcends the basic chemistry we see taking place, this appears to be the case.
Not supernatural. But my point is, absolutely, that the awareness part of our intelligence is NOT explainable by modern physics. But not supernatural, just not understood yet.
Everything else about intelligence is hypothetically doable by a turing machine AKA a brain or a computer. It would certainly not be theoretically impossible to create a program that is capable of controlling a human body as effectively or more effectively than a human mind can. However, that may be extremely difficult...
Another question it raises to me, is if that is possible, then why did we evolve consciousness in the first place? Being aware of what is going on just isn't necessary. A computer is not aware and yet it functions. I think the key is that the awareness part might actually simplify what needs to be coded for. But when we are trying to recreate AI, we don't have that benefit.
If real intelligence is cause by electrochemical pulses travelling through neural pathways controlled by a "program", it is at least possible that a similar phenominon could be formed through electrical pulses travelling though AND and NOR gates (controlled by programming).
Again, the real question here is whether 'intelligence" (which we haven't defined yet) can be replicated in a Turing machine. And, i don't pretend to have a clue about this.
But, if it can, and human intelligence was developed though a genetic process in a "program space" that was very large and flexible... it seems a similar process in a large a flexible Turing program space wouldn't be unthinkable.
Well, if you define intelligence in terms of being able to think of new ideas etc and adapt to ones surroundings and do everything that humans do to be successful...there's nothing fundamental stopping a Turing machine from that...although it is certainly not an easy task, and we aren't very close!