Giant Brains; Or, Machines That Think

Giant Brains; Or, Machines That Think

Giant Brains; Or, Machines That Think

Giant Brains; Or, Machines That Think

Excerpt

The subject of this book is a type of machine that comes closer to being a brain that thinks than any machine ever did before 1940. These new machines are called sometimes mechanical brains and sometimes sequence-controlled calculators and sometimes by other names. Essentially, though, they are machines that can handle information with great skill and great speed. And that power is very similar to the power of a brain.

These new machines are important. They do the work of hundreds of human beings for the wages of a dozen. They are powerful instruments for obtaining new knowledge. They apply in science, business, government, and other activities. They apply in reasoning and computing, and, the harder the problem, the more useful they are. Along with the release of atomic energy, they are one of the great achievements of the present century. No one can afford to be unaware of their significance.

In this book I have sought to tell a part of the story of these new machines that think. Perhaps you, as you start this book, may not agree with me that a machine can think: the first chapter of this book is devoted to the discussion of this question.

My purpose has been to tell enough about these machines so that we can see in general how they work. I have sought to explain some giant brains that have been built and to show how they do thinking operations. I have sought also to talk about what these machines can do in the future and to judge their significance for us. It seems to me that they will take a load off men's minds as great as the load that printing took off men's writing: a tremendous burden lifted.

We need to examine several of the new mechanical brains: Massachusetts Institute of Technology's differential analyzer, Harvard's IBM automatic sequence-controlled calculator, Moore School's ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calcu-

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