Machines, minds and computers

Machines, minds and computers

Machines, minds and computers
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by The Open University

In this unit I want to offer you a panoramic view of the intellectual background to the ideas we're going to cover. There are four principal sections – 'Machines', 'Minds', 'AI' and 'Computers' – framed by this introduction and some conclusions and reflections. Briefly, this is the ground I want to cover: Machines. In this section we'll look at the history of humanity's engagement with machine technologies and at our dream of building machines that share our special human features and powers – particularly our mental abilities. Minds. Here, we'll explore the development of the idea that human thought might be a form of computation, from its origins in the 17th century, through the advent of the digital computer in the 20th, and into the Cybernetics and Symbolic AI movements of the recent past and the present. AI. In this section we'll examine the birth and intellectual foundations of Symbolic AI and contrast it with the Cybernetic approach. We will also look at the distinction between strong and weak artificial intelligence. Computers. Almost all of us have some experience of working with computers. Most of us probably feel confident we know what they are, and what they can do. In this section we'll examine the fundamental concept of the digital computer as an interpreted automatic formal system and consider the implications of this for computational theories of mind.



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