Can machines think? The question is tricky. In this Washington Times article, Fred Reed says that even if a computer can be labeled as artificially intelligent, the so-called intelligence actually is in the software.
When a calculator takes a square root, we don't think of it as being intelligent. But chess is the premier intellectual game. Surely it requires intelligence?
Reed writes that even a chess program is made of building blocks which are not really intelligent.
A chess program typically has a "move generator" that makes a list of all potential moves from a given board position. It is a simple, mechanical, and apparently brainless process.
For example, a pawn that has been moved before can move one space ahead if nothing is in the way, or one space diagonally to take an opposing piece if one is there. If it hasn't been moved, it has the same choice with the additional possibility of moving two spaces ahead if nothing is in the way. A poodle might learn to do it.
Then an "evaluation routine" looks at the move and decides yes or no according to mechanical rules. The program just does a lot of if-then checks.
Doing this several moves into the future requires enormous computing power because the number of potential paths quickly becomes enormous. But the individual steps do not seem intelligent.
Reed also argues that most of us recognize intelligence without even having a clear definition of what it is. So who cares if machines are intelligent or not?
For practical purposes, and certainly in the business world, the answer seems to be that if it seems to be intelligent, it doesn't matter whether it really is. If you tell a household robot, "Call Bob Smith for me," and it does it, that's enough.
Source: Fred Reed, The Washington Times, May 1, 2003
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