95. Reading Skills Comprehension: Computers as thinkers

By | July 30, 2020

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Computers as thinkers

Read the passage and answer the following Questions Carefully:-

 The topic of thought is one area of Psychology and many observers have considered this aspect in connection with robots and computers; some of the old worries about artificial intelligence were closely linked to the question of whether computers could think. The first massive electronic computers capable of rapid computation and little or no creative activity were soon dubbed ‘electronic brains’. A reaction to this terminology quickly followed. To put them in their place, computers were called ‘high-speed idiots’, an effort to protect human vanity. But not everyone realized the implications of high-speed idiot tag. It has not been pointed out often enough that even the human idiot is one of the most intelligent life forms on earth. If the early computers were even that intelligent, it was a remarkable state of affairs.

One consequence of speculation about the possibility of computer thought was that we were forced to examine with new care the idea of thought in general. It soon becomes clear that we were not sure what we meant by such terms as thought and thinking. We tend to assume that human beings think, some more than others, though we often call people thoughtless or unthinking. Dreams cause a problem, partly because they usually happen outside our control. They are obviously some type of mental experience, but are they a type of thinking? And the question of non-human life forms adds further problems. Many of us would maintain that some of the higher animals—dogs. cats, apes and so on are capable of at least basic thought, but what about fish and insects? It is certainly true that the higher mammals show complex brain activity when tested with the appropriate equipment. If thinking is demonstrated by evident electrical activity in the brain, then many animals species are capable of thought. Once we have formulated clear ideas on what thought in biological creatures is, it will be easier to discuss the thought in artefacts. And what is true of thought is also true of many other mental processes. One of the immense benefits of Artificial Intelligence research is that we are being forced to scrutinize with new rigour, the working the f human mind.

 It is already clear that machines have superior mental abilities to many life forms. No fern or an oak tree can play chess as well as even the simplest digital computer nor can frogs weld car bodies as well as robots. The three-fingered mechanical manipulator is cleverer in some ways than the three-toed sloth. It seems that view in terms of intellect, the computer should be set well above plants and most animals. Only the higher animals can, it seems,

complete with computers with regard to intellect—and even then with diminishing success (Examples of this are in the games of backgammon and chess). Some of the world’s best players are now computers.


(a)On the basis of your reading of the above passage make notes on it, in points only, using recognisable abbreviations ( minimum 4), wherever necessary. Supply a suitable title for it.

(b)Make a summary of the above passage in about 80 words.


Notes on the contents of the Passage :

A. Computers and robots

— can they think

B. First, eke. compts

— called the elect. Brains

 — human vanity hurt

— (to put in place) called h.s.idiots

C. Now, look at the meaning of thought w.r.t.

— lower animals

— higher animals

— machines

Abbreviations used :

 1. elec. — electronic

2. compt. — computers

 3. h.s.high speed

4. W.I.’.with respect to

 5. sup. superior

6 int.intelligence

 D. machines sup, in it, too many life forms

— fern the, the oak tree can’t play chess, computers can.

— frogs can’t weld, robots can.

 — only higher forms of life can compete.

— (that too) to a limited degree

(b) Summary of the Passage :

There has been a lot of controversy about whether computers and robots could be called intelligent things or as things having brains. The early enthusiasts called them electronic brains. Later they called them high-speed idiots to put their critics in place. However, it has now become clear that computers and robots have superior mental activities to many life forms. They can work far better than the lower forms of life that are supposed to have some intelligence. Only the higher forms of life can compete with computers and that too, to a limited degree.

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