Can computers think?

Computers currently simulate thought. They are able to manipulate data, solve problems and make decisions within the constraints established by the programmer. The movie industry has on numerous occasions projected images of “intelligent systems”. The fascination with artificial intelligence has roots in the 1968 epic film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the central character being HAL 9000, a computer that talks amiably, renders aesthetic judgments, and recognizes emotions. One can also remember Lt. Data in Star Trek and more recently, the robotic revolution depicted in iRobot.

A current PC has the computational equivalence of a low-order animal brain, and during the next decade it is likely that PC’s will grow in speed to be equivalent to the brain of a higher animal such as a rat. If one considers the mobility and level of intelligence of these animals, it can be seen that there is enormous potential for converting a sophisticated entertainment device into something useful.

With the increase in research in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI) and fuzzy logic[1], computers will be able to think and make decisions by themselves soon. IBM’s research in AI led to the development of “Deep Blue”, the computer that defeated chess world champion, Garry Kasparov. Asimo, by Honda, is an example of what engineers and researchers would like to achieve, a humanoid.


[1] A rule-based technology that creates rules that use approximate or subjective values and incomplete or ambiguous data. Fuzzy logic represents more closely the way people actually think than traditional if-then rules. http://www.nvcc.edu/home/lfeist/Class%2011/Chap%208%20-%20Key%20Terms.doc

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