Wednesday, October 31, 2007

35 Hours With The Thinking Machines.

Before the jaunt began I thought OMG 35 Hrs!!! How the F&$K I'm going to waste the next 35 hours of my sprightly life doing nothing but waiting for a bully train to stop next to my home...
Apart from a frisson of excitement that it brings, Homecoming also shades a reign of nostalgia...and that isn't easy. Especially when you have to cover long 35 hours travelling with odd worldly people who do nothing else but curse and sleep and wait for ends to come. Naah I thought I should plan out something. Looking into my Motri I found a book (Ah!), an iPod (Useless), and some print-outs (Good!)...something to work upon.

The Book had some chapters on different Philosophers, and I jumped to a seemingly exciting one on
Alan Turing. The quest was then to finish it all over in one slurp. For those of you who don't know Alan Turing was an English mathematician (actually...not really) who developed the concept of theoretical computing and Artificial Intelligence (to some extent). His ideas helped designing the First Computer of our era. He also played critical role in Second World War, deciphering the German cryptographic codes.

He contributed to the
Theories of Computability and also devised "Turing Machines" - a hypothetical computing machine which scans and alters a linear array of symbols on a tape according to preset rules. The machine in concept resembled an automatic typewriter that used symbols for math and logic instead of letters. Turing intended the device to be used as a “universal machine” that could be programmed to duplicate the function of any other existing machine. The machine can be said to be the theoretical precursor to the modern digital computer.
I also read about the
Turing Tests - a test for intelligence in computers, requiring that a human should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human using the replies to questions put to both. Interesting they were, but these pretty things all went above my head as usual :)

But what really caught me was the crossfire arguments on "Can Machines Think?" Most people dig with a kinda commonsense repugnance on the lack of awareness and consciousness a machine may never be able to gain - they'll do whatever they are made to do isn't it...but this can also be true with us humans. Consider John Searle's line of reasoning of a Chinese Room where some group of people are working on translation of Chinese to English. Assuming that *) There's an algorithm for translating the same *) People in the group work mindlessly and have no clue what English is...they just work apropos the algorithm. Isn't it like automation machines then.
So its not hard to imagine mindful machines who may act unconsciously or intelligently whatever they "wish" to...(I can see much counter-arguments now!)
Anyway I can debate long on it now...my 35 hours didn't go waste at least :)

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