New Media

Can machines think?

Can machines think? This question has been around for years. It is often asked by younger children who are curious about computers. Machines are just that machines. They have no brain, however, they have a motherboard which acts as their brain. The motherboard causes the machine to work without a person helping it. This makes me wonder if the motherboard is actually a substitute for the brain. In turn, it could be possible that machines think. If this is the case, I believe that machines think but only about the task they are designed to do. My opinion is that machines do not think outside of what they are made to do. They have no emotions therefore, they can not become curious about other things.

The thought that Dennett Canmach posed in his paper “Can Machines Think?” is one that I had never thought of. ” It is of more than academic importance that we learn to think clearly about the actual cognitive powers of computers, for they are now being introduced into a variety of sensitive social roles, where their powers will be put to the ultimate test: In a wide variety of areas, we are on the verge of making ourselves dependent upon their cognitive powers”(1). We depend on these machines to do just about everything imaginable.

Alan Turing was one of the inventors of the computer. We have him to thank for the Macs and Windows laptops we use today. Even he asked the same question. Canmach quotes Turing by stating his thoughts on the unrelenting question ” a question that leads only to sterile debate and haggling over definitions, a question, as he put it, “too meaningless to deserve discussion” (Turing, 1950)”(2).

The Turing Test is a test that was designed by Alan Turing to prove that computers are not intelligent. It must ensure that the human(s) playing against or with the machine are not able to identify it as a machine. However, the computer MUST be able to generate responses to that similar of a human’s. “However, the test does not test ability to give correct answer, only to mock responses similar to human’s” (Wikipedia). The test is strong one when the object is critical thinking. “However, an overlook pointed out by Canmach, is that people maybe biased due to physical appearances without a second thought. Turing decided to make a screen that showed only what he wanted; the capacity to understand, and think cleverly about, challenging problems” (6).

Turing’s assumption; “Nothing could possible pass the Turing test by winning the imitation game without being able to perform indefinitely many other clearly intelligent actions” (6).

Now, David L. Anderson who wrote “Artificial Intelligence: Can a Machine Think?”, pointed out a few interesting facts. I played “Larry” and lost every time. It can be said that when answering the question “Can a Machine Think?” a person may be skeptical. While playing Larry, I came to realize and agree with two of the supporting answers;

  • Y2: “Larry is intelligent at the game last one loses, even if he isn’t intelligent in other areas.
  • Y3: Larry may not be as intelligent as we are, but he is intelligent. (Intelligence comes in degrees”(1).

The next question is “QUESTION 2: What are the best reasons for believing that Larry is not intelligent?” (1-2). 

I was inclined to agree with one of the answers:

  • N2: “It isn’t Larry that is intelligent, it’s the programmer who is. The programmer has built his own intelligence into the program”(2).

It is complicated to think about. However, as the article explains. Larry’s programmer was able to input the winning equation which causes Larry to win if the correct number is taken and he goes first. However, Larry Learner attempted to “learn” as the game went on. Tony, is the intelligent one due to his ability to program the computer to do what is needed as well as proving programming does not mean unintelligent.

Anderson pointed out an important and often overlooked fact about humans;

“Larry is not intelligent because Larry just does what he’s programmed to do.

The claim seems to be that giving Larry the ability to “learn” doesn’t make any significant difference because Larry was programmed to learn, and so the second version of Larry doesn’t deserve any more credit for learning to win the game than the first version deserved for winning the game. There seem to be rather significant assumptions being made here. The first assumption is:

A1: Nothing that is programmed is intelligent.

If “not being programmed” is a necessary condition for being intelligent, [than] Larry is not intelligent — for Larry is, by definition, a computer program. Since virtually everyone believes that human beings with normal cognitive abilities are intelligent, it is also being assumed by virtually anyone who would give N3 as an answer, that a second assumption is true:

A2: Humans are not programmed.

Are assumptions A1 and A2 true? If you believe that N3 does not give a very good reason for thinking that Larry is not intelligent, then one way of attacking it is to challenge one of the assumptions. How about A2? Are there reasons that one might give for thinking that A2 is false? That is, are there reasons for thinking that humans are programmed, at least in some sense of that term? Well, arguments of the following kind are frequently given:

Human beings are “programmed” in two important ways: by nature and by nurture. We are not the authors of our own intelligent abilities. First, our brains are complex organs that have built into them the mechanisms that make possible our reasoning abilities. YOU did not design or build your own brain. Either nature did (through evolution) or God did. But in either case, you don’t get credit for it. Second, you have been taught and trained by many people, you have been nurtured. If you were raised by wolves, you wouldn’t speak a language and you would be incapable of many forms of reasoning that you now take for granted. The training that you have received from other people is a kind of programming. Yes, the capacities that machines have were “[built-in]” by humans, but the capacities that we have were “built in” as well. So A2 is false. Humans are programmed, at least in a certain broad sense of “being programmed.””(2). 

In my honest opinion, I believe that machines can be programmed to think and feel. However, they are not free-thinkers on their own.


*****Disclaimer***** ALL Images came from Google Search "Can machines think" and "Turing Test"******



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