Can Computers Be Intelligent?

“Can computers think?” “No, thinking is conscious and it’s an activity of an existential value to humans” “Yes, we now have modern computers capable of performing the highest possible mental operations”

There has been a continuous shift in technological paradigm all through the evolution of man. Man has learned much from his interaction with nature, and from his mistakes, he has developed to be a better version of himself; little wonder did Hannay and McGinn make the statement “the basic function of technology is the expansion of the realm of practical human possibility”.  From the days of binary Abacus, computing technology has now developed to the new age of using algorithmic models to solve complex problems on a much larger scale. The ability of these computers to solve problems simultaneously like humans has brought about the question as to whether the computer is intelligent.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Intelligence has always been a disputable topic and much agreement on its definition has not been achieved. Nevertheless, some definitions have received more steadfast recognition and less criticism than others.  Various experts defined intelligence in the Journal of Educational Psychology, 1921 published by the American Psychological Association(APA) and just as you would expect, none of them was the same. 

Anastasi (1992), an American Psychologist who is also a winner of the APA Award for Lifetime Contributions to Psychology, defined intelligence as “not a single, unitary ability, but rather a composite of several functions. The term denotes that combination of abilities required for survival and advancement within a particular culture.”. Bingham(1937), an applied and industrial psychologist who made significant contributions to intelligence testing defined intelligence as “the ability of an organism to solve new problems”.  Haute a Spanish psychologist who has been attributed to be the founder of neuropsychology, defined intelligence as “the ability to learn, exercise judgment, and be imaginative”.  However, the question “Can Computers Be Intelligent?” has caused more debates than the definitions of intelligence (Engelbrecht, 2002)

Can computer imitate the human brain?

Alan Turig, a renowned mathematician and logician who was awarded an officer of the Order of the British Empire gave so much thought to the question “Can Computers Be Intelligent?”. He was of the opinion that machines could imitate the process of the human brain. Turing strongly believed that a well-designed computer has the ability to function intelligently just like a human, hence, he published the Turing Test which is a test of a machine’s capacity to demonstrate intelligent practices identical to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

 John Searle, who was a Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language opposed this view. The core of his argument is an experiment known as the chinese room which explained that regardless of how intelligently or human-like a computer may behave, it cannot have a mind of its own. 

Thus, Engelbrecht(2002) in his book Computational Intelligence: An Introduction explained that the answer is left to the viewers and attempts to answer the question would continue to provoke heavy debates. However, he opined that while successes have been achieved in the effort to model biological neural systems to portray intelligence in computing, there are still no solutions to the problems of modeling intuition, consciousness and emotions which form an integral part of human intelligence.

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