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Machines and "Thinking"

The question is, can machines think? The answer is complicated by the further issue of how to define thinking. While it is clear that machines can think in certain terms, it is less certain that machines can think in the way human beings do. In recent years, these issues have been analyzed by philosophers and scientists in a variety of ways, from considering how to develop a machine that can emulate the complexities of the human mind to how to test such a machine to see if it can think or not. Often, the issue has been addressed as a competition, such as that between human chess champion Gary Kasparov and a chess-playing computer known as Big Blue. The fact that Kasparov won the most points in the six matches does not change the fact that the computer almost won--does this mean the computer can think?

There is no doubt that computer technology has improved greatly in recent years and that the capabilities of computers have increased many times over. Considering the rate at which these changes came about, it is likely that there will be even greater strides made in the coming years, creating computers that are able to emulate human thought even more closely. One of the areas of interest recently has been what is called artificial intelligence, or AI:

The objectives of AI are to imitate by means of machines, normally electronic ones, as much of human mental activity as possible, and perhaps eventually to improve upon human abilities in these respects (Penrose 11).

Penrose notes that chess-playing computers may offer the best examples of machines exhibiting what can be called "intelligent behavior." These machines rely heavily on "book knowledge" in addition to accurate calculational power. The differences between how humans play and how these machines play is important:

The computer's decisions are made on the basis of precise and rapid extended computations, whereas the human player takes advantage of "judgment...

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Machines and "Thinking". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:07, August 21, 2019, from