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"My name is Dorothy," said the girl, "and I am going to the Emerald City, to ask the Oz to send me back to Kansas."
"Where is the Emerald City?" he enquired; "and who is Oz?"
"Why, don't you know?" she returned in surprise.
"No, indeed; I don't know anything. You see, I am stuffed, so I have no brains at all," he answered, sadly.
"Oh," said Dorothy; "I'm awfully sorry for you."
"Do you think," he asked, "If I go to the Emerald City with you, that the great Oz would give me some brains?"
"I cannot tell you," she returned; "but you may come with me, if you like. If Oz will not give you any brains you will be no worse off than you are now."
-L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful World of Oz1
As Dorothy and the Scarecrow begin their search for a "brain," we can catch a glimpse of an issue that has been bouncing around our culture for centuries: can man make a machine think? While Baum's story does not focus on the Scarecrow as the possibility of a thinking machine, he does raise the question of whether a human brain is necessary for thinking. This question of the brainÕs vitality is first exposed to our culture with what many literary critics feel is the birth of Science Fiction, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
Frankenstein is the story of dead body parts being brought to life through the use of electricity. After witnessing the creature's action readers are left asking if the human brain is sufficient for thinking or if there is more to thinking than a brain? Other Science Fiction writers took this to a different level and "created" the robot, a non-human thinking machine. Frankenstein is on the cusp of humans and non-humans and the beginning of the debate of what it means to artificially think. These imagined ideas caused others to think about making these ideas a reality. Marvin Minsky, one of the original scientists involved in establishing artificial intelligence, cites Science Fiction as one of his major motivators to enter the world of AI. It was not until the summer of 1956 that scientists felt that it might be possible to write non-fiction accounts of robots at some point in the near future.
During the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College, scholars, who would later be considered the founding fathers of
123helpme.com/search.asp?text=artificial+intelligence">Artificial Intelligence (AI), gathered to discuss the possibilities of thinking machines. This meeting might not have achieved all of its aims to be an open-forum for ideas and theories for everyone to attempt to solve together the questions of what is necessary for thinking, but it is considered a focal starting point in the study of AI.2
Some Artificial Intelligence experts believe that AI is when a machine carries out a function that would be considered intelligent if a human were to perform the same act. Does this mean that a program that can solve ( to the hundredth place is using artificial intelligence? No, this shows that the program is adept at arithmetic. Maybe artificial intelligence is when a computer actually performs cognitive processes and thinks; it acts as a mind? This definition seems to give a little more substance to the term artificial intelligence and to grant the science more credibility. However, does this mean that a machine should form opinions, or have emotions, two main elements of the human mind? A middle ground between these two possible definitions seems to be the best solution. For a machine to be considered artificially intelligent it needs to be able to react to its environment through the use of perception the way a human would without forming an opinion. It should use the data around it to devise solutions for problems, not philosophize on the why, but just be concerned with the how. However, this definition has flaws. If I were to form an infallible meaning, I would need to define what it means to think and if the brain is essential to that process, a subject that philosophers have been debating for most of time. The best way to explore the question of whether AI meets the requirement for thinking is to look at different programs designed in the field of artificial intelligence.3
The first program developed was the Logic Theorist by Allen Newell and Herbert Simon. The Logic Theorist could solve theorems presented in Principia Mathematica, a book of theorems and proofs, by Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. The program used the order of operations and earlier proved proofs as its basis to solve new proofs. The Logic Theorist went through its entire memory until it either found an answer or declared that the question had no solution. The Logic Theorist built upon the information it had deduced and would use that for further work. While the Logic Theorist was not the most efficient way to work, it did show similarities to the human thinking process. It made connections with information it had already gathered to a question it was trying to solve the way humans rely on past experiences to aid decision-making. This program showed the first steps of perceiving of the information it knew what was relevant and what was not. The Logic Theorist supplied the proof for potential artificial intelligence.4
While the Logic Theorist showed potential, it did not necessarily show intelligence. Some other programs used similar concepts as the Logic Theorist, converting language into math. There were programs that used Boolean logic, others that used key parts of speech and converted them to symbols all to solve mathematical equations. There were other programs developed to play a game of chess. The main criticism of these and other comparable programs was for these programs to be considered to have the same thought processes as humans it meant that humans always thought in accordance with a strict system of rules along a linear fashion. However, humans do not always think linearly, but connect two ideas that might not appear to have any connection at all. For example, one might have lost his keys, and while looking for them he comes across his sister's shirt that she had left there from this past weekend. He thinks about how he drove her to the bus station so she could get home. When he came back his roommate had run into him in the parking lot and asked if he could borrow the car to go to class. And with that he realizes that his roommate has his keys. Keeping this idea of non-linear thought in mind researchers pushed forward to uncover new ground.5
There has been substantial progress in some of the subfields of Artificial Intelligence during the past three decades, but the field overall is moving toward increasing subfield isolation and increasing attention to near-term applications, retarding progress toward comprehensive theories and deep scientific understanding, and ultimately, retarding progress toward developing the science needed for higher-impact applications.
-a statement from faculty of the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.6
Though AI had a triumphant beginning its momentum has slowed over the years. AI has been able to gain an insight into what can be considered intelligent, but it has not been able to replicate thinking in machinery in any general way. As AI has matured it has developed many subfields of which robotics is one. Robots are used in many factories in assembling and making many objects varying from cars to pencils. A robot that is designed to build a car would not be able assemble a pencil as hard as it tried because it has no information in that field. AI has not found a way to bring the various information it has found in research from its subfields and connect them to create a well-rounded thinking machine.7
AI has started to make its way out of the research labs and into the outside world. A new online company called Agents, Inc. is employing and selling an AI program used for market analysis. With input from a consumer, ACFª (Automated Collaborative Filteringª) is able to draw connections to past consumers with similar interests and suggests products to the consumer that he or she might be interested in, all in real time. The ACF system is able to pin-point each consumer's interests with the more information the consumer enters, the further the ACF system is able to focus on the customer's interests. While this does not seem to be more than a game of matching like objects, it is a new beginning for AI to be seen as a tangible practice rather than an abstract concept.8
Artificial Intelligence is still a young science and it is somewhat presumptuous to think that man could have developed a thinking machine at such an accelerated rate. But, at least at the moment, researchers are confident that they are not far away from a solution, or at least a step in the right direction. Prof. Winston of M.I.T. says, "One could argue that 30 years is not much time for a science to develop...another 30 years, or another 300 years, will be required to develop the theory needed." He is optimistic though that a step forward will occur soon, "progress will be either rapid or nonexistent; it cannot be slow." Along with these words of encouragement he has offered suggestions on how AI might takes steps forward. He feels research must be done in the area of visual analysis. Most problem-solving is done using visual aids. In line with this thinking if researchers were able to develop a computer program that solved problems visually then they would have a computer that could think limitedly. This would be a step forward, but it would not be the end of the journey. The brain does not solve all problems visually so it can not be expected that AI will be saved by identifying the connection between thinking and sight.9
While many AI experts believe they will soon stumble upon what makes the human brain work at the moment they are not much closer than they were forty years ago in Dartmouth. While computer programs are able to accomplish much more than were forty years ago they are not able to realize something they do not already know. It appears that the answer to Mr. Baum's question of whether the human brain is necessary for thought is yes.
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. New York, 1900
Firefly: Products. http://www.firelfy.net/products/FireflyTools.html. April 14, 1997
Gardner, Howard. The Mind's New Science. Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1985.
Impacts of Artificial Intelligence. Ed. Trappl, R. Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam, 1985.
McCorduck, Pamela. Machines Who Think. W.H.Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1979.
MIT AI Lab Projects and Publications. http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects.html. March 2, 1997.
Some Thoughts. http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/phw/state.html. April 14, 1997
Why I am Optimistic. http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/phw/optimism.html. April 3, 1997
1. Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful World of Oz. New York, 1900.
2. McCorduck, Pamela. Machines Who Think. W.H.Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1979. pp. 95, 96
3. Gardner, Howard. The Mind's New Science. Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, New York: 1985. p. 140
4. Ibid. pp. 145-148
5. Ibid., pp. 150, 151
6. Some Thoughts. http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/phw/state.html. April 14, 1997
8. Firefly: Products. http://www.firelfy.net/products/FireflyTools.html. April 14, 1997
9. Why I am Optimistic. http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/phw/optimism.html. April 3, 1997