Computers are complicated machines that require multiple trial and error sessions to understand, and the different programs they carry, make it harder to do the same. My first experience with computers revolved around my parents purchasing an Acorn Archimedes sometime in the nineties; I cannot remember the exact date or year. Nonetheless, only the older children in the neighborhood could play computer games, and the adults found a different use for the contraption. At home, it was the same with my parents, especially my father who would spend hours in front of the machine as I silently watched his fingers fly over the keys and words appear on the screen. On that note, it was hard to grasp the notion of a monitor connected to a keyboard in a way that makes the two parts function as though they were one, and the placement of the keys was another mystery. To me, since the letters did not appear as they do in the alphabet, they were wrong; however, the computer still functioned, and that made it more puzzling.
Now, in one incident, a cousin was explaining the use of the spacebar in one of the games and my young mind could not stop thinking that the key would send anyone who dares to press it into space! I lost multiple turns at playing because of the misplaced fears. Expectedly, it took some time to understand the functioning of a computer despite my current self-proclaimed prowess. From clicking many windows open, only to have someone help with closing them, to finally using the computer to complete assignments with multiple programs running, my perception of computers evolved and improved with time.
Before computers became the norm, relationships were different as communication relied on physical contact. Connections meant having conversations, and sharing depended on people meeting physically. Hence, I viewed every conversation, planned or impromptu meetings, and letters as the fundamental rules that were necessary to ensure constant companionship. Computers changed that by offering a new partner that was smart and yet very compliant to given instructions. For instance, I could play multiple games alone, and the computer was a worthy opponent whenever I required one; hence, there was no need to share the keyboard with another person and that alone increased the machine’s appeal. Additionally, unlike the other children in the neighborhood, functioning computers could follow instructions without any questions: the power button promptly shuts it on or off, and the programs operate as per any given instructions without a glitch.
With the given facts in mind, the understanding of computers encompassed a contraption that could not only outsmart people but also hold a memory unless commanded otherwise. In other words, all saved work remained so unless one chose to delete or transfer the same from the computer’s memory. The mentioned features were particularly advantageous where games and personal projects, such as typed work and paintings, were concerned. Thus, although it was purely for self-serving purposes, the desire to have a personal computer even when at school prevailed. The idea of typing instead of writing during class was predominantly appealing since that would mean saving class notes on the computer and ultimately using that as a reason to spend even more time on the machine in the name of homework and revisions. Still, the bulk shape, heavy weight, and multiple parts that made up computers strongly inhibited transportation and as a result, hauling the machine to and from all classes was impossible. Concurrently, the computer’s processors and saving capacity were a serious problem as the screen would freeze without warning, and we could not save everything lest we used up the available memory. However, computers were already changing with new designs emerging in the market, and that meant it was possible to have more than a single improvement on the machines. Naturally, computers with higher processors, better Random Access Memory, and remote-controlled functioning were at the forefront of the computer’s potential capabilities.
In the report “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, Turing presented the imitation game as a form of test to ascertain the intelligence of a computer. According to the man, instead of two human contestants in the imitation game, a machine could replace the first or second participant and a third person would have to interrogate both candidates without knowing which one is the computer (Turing 28). Throughout the game, the two contestants will have to type down their answers for the judge to determine the winner. If the game’s results remain unaffected or are similar to when the first two contestants were human, then the machine would be capable of thought only because the third participant could not tell the difference. Hence, any machine that one cannot distinguish from a human being based on written answers is capable of thinking. In contrast, John Searle’s “Minds, Brains, and Programs” approaches the idea of computers through the concept of intentionality. According to Searle, “intentionalityis a product of causal features of the brain” and for that reason, computers cannot perform tasks intentionally because machines do not possess consciousness (417). For instance, one may not consciously hit his or her head against an open door; yet, when he or she tries to remember why the door is open then he or she triggers his or her consciousness. Such traits are, in Searle’s views, part of a high Artificial Intelligence that machines cannot possess and are only subject to humans and animals. In other words, for programmed computers to be of strong Artificial Intelligence, they must be capable of thinking and should not imitate thought without question (Searle 417-418).
Based on the given arguments, computers have surpassed the expectations of both Turing and Searle. On one hand, Turing’s ideologies encompass machines that can only work with a particular criterion as per the commands of an operator. In other words, to pass the Turing Test, a computer needs to answer questions that would sway the third participant and have him or her believe its words. With the right programs in place, computers can exceed human intelligence and for that reason, the machine passes Turing’s assessment. However, since it requires a human being to install the necessary programs and maintain a computer’s ability to process information and proper function, then it is safe to concur with Searle’s skepticism on high Artificial Intelligence. Still, the development of the General Problem Solver (GPS) by computer scientists Allen Newell, Herbert A. Simon, and John Clifford Shaw render Searle’s arguments baseless. According to Searle, machines are incapable of forming thought because unlike the conscious mind, computers cannot perform tasks unless commanded. Nonetheless, the General Program Solver utilizes formulas to represent a problem and then provides the solution. Hence, the results of the program exceed the human mind by giving an answer that was previously unavailable. In that sense, computers can achieve high Artificial Intelligence.
Searle, John R. "Minds, brains, and Programs." The Behavioral and Brain Sciences (1980): 417-424. Web. 1 February 2016.
Turing, A. M. "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." Mind, New Series 59 .236 (1950): 433-460. Web. 1 February 2016. <http://www.jstor.org>.