Can or will computers ever think? Well this has been a subject of much debate between even the greatest minds, and yet there is still no answer. First of all I have would like you to answer a question. What is 4×13? Did you have to think to answer that? Yes? Well does that mean that a computer can think because it can answer that question. Well that is what we are going to set to answer and I think yes, depending on your definition of thinking.
First off let’s get something straight. When I refer to computers in this essay I am not referring only to the microprocessor sitting on your desk but to microprocessors that control robots of various structure.
Well as I said we first must define ‘to think’. What does that mean? Webster’s New Compact Dictionary defines ‘think’ as “1. Have a mind. 2. Believe. 3. Employ the mind.”. It defines mind as ‘to think’. So does this mean that if you can think does this mean you have a mind? My opinion is that, according to this definition, computers can think. A computer can give you an answer to the question ‘What is 4×13?’, so it can think. What’s that? You say it’s just programmed to do that, if no one programmed it wouldn’t be able to do that. Well how did you know how to answer the question? Your teacher or parent’s or someone taught it to you. So you were programmed, same as the computer was.
So you think that programing is different than learning. You might think the same as my grandma that programing is something where things are just drilled into you like people who are members of cults. Well when your teacher stood over you desk in elementary and do drilled you on the multiplication tables was that not programming? Would you know that 1×5 does not equal 10 if everyone you ever met said that it did. Another argument my grandma used was my little cousin and how when he runs into a wall he learns that it hurts so he doesn’t do it again. (Well actually he does it because he has a hard head). Yet a professor in Calgary builds robots that do not even contain a microprocessor yet it can learn. He builds them out of spare part from broken electronics such as walkman’s. They have multiple legs and when one leg get’s stuck, say on a piece of tape, the strain on the motor causes the motor to change the twisting motion of the leg and this feedback system continues until it gets free, but the second time it takes less time to get free because some how it knows, what to do to get free. So it has learned and therefore must be able to think according to that definition of think.
My mother says that what makes it that computers can’t think is they can not handle situations they have not been programmed to handle. Well there are now robots that can navigate through a room where they have not been programmed to handle but they can navigate through it without bumping into anything. They can’t do it with the efficiency of a human but they can do it. So once again they can think according to a definition of ‘to think’.
My dad felt that a computer would not be able to think because if you put it in a room and never used it, it wouldn’t be able to think. Well would you be able to think if you could not hear, touch, see, smell, or taste anything and as such could receive no information. What would you have to think about.
Another couple of definition brought up in a conversation was that in order to survive something must be able to think and that the ability to come up with original ideas was proof that something can think. The Calgary professor mentioned earlier also took these robots (without microprocessors) and gave them solar panels so they could get their own energy. He also gave some a device that allowed it to disable other robots. These robots would wander around a room and they would fight over the sunniest spots in the room because it was the spot they stood the best chance of survival. If these robots disabled another one they used it’s ‘remains’ along with others to form a barrier around this sunny spot so it would be protected. Well if this behaviour is not proof of the fact that computers can survive and come up with original idea’s I don’t know what is.
So as you can see by all the definitions I have been able to come up with a computer can think. The most strong objection I found was that we are living and that is what makes us think is just an objection to the fact that something may possibly some day become smarter than us.