20 March 2007

Machines can't think like humans

No matter how much you rave on about technology, machines still can’t think like human beings.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love machines and technology too. From their ability to book flight tickets in an instant to saving friends and family from possible heart attacks to developing safer cars to travel in to providing better news and entertainment… it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of machines and technology in our lives. Some say, machines can be programmed to solve just about anything we have difficulty with.

Well, not yet. When it comes to tasks which come naturally to human beings, like making beds or telling bedtime stories to put children to sleep, machines fall regrettably short. One of the reasons for this may be because machines are not quite sure of themselves when they encounter something unexpected. If the solution is not found within the system – i.e. it is not programmed into it – machines can get stuck (stop functioning or go into a loop) or behave erratically.

In contrast, when humans get stuck with problems, they seek out and find possible alternative approaches, methods and solutions… some of which may involve using another machine or technology or tactic. This versatility, or resourcefulness, of human beings is something machines have not been able to copy. At least, not yet. This is because the resourcefulness of the human mind is not entirely a matter of reason, but a combination of reason and emotion.

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