Intelligent computers are defined as machines that involve the use of intelligence and computer science concepts to execute various tasks initiated by the user. Intelligent computers are systems that are able to perceive their environments and take actions that are meant to maximize the effectiveness of executing these actions. Intelligent computers are also referred to as intelligent agents because they have the ability to observe and act on the environment rationally so as to achieve specific goals. These computers like human beings can be able to learn how they can use knowledge to achieve these goals (Russell and Norvig 2003).
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Computer programs have been described as a vital component of intelligent agents because they are designed to act as rational systems that can be able to think, reason, react and acquire new knowledge just like human beings do. Software programs are able to intelligently execute various commands that have been initiated by users of computer programs thus making them a major component of intelligent computers. Intelligent computers have systems that encompass practical reasoning, socio-cognitive modeling and moral ethics which means that they are designed to be more human than the machine (Russell and Norvig 2003).
For computers to be termed as intelligent, they have to possess certain characteristics which according to Kasabov (1998) include the ability to accommodate new problem-solving rules at an incremental pace, the ability to react rationally to various commands issued by a program user, ability to adapt to online time and real times, ability to learn in an efficient way from large amounts of data and also improve its own system by constantly interacting with the environment, possess a large storage memory that will support storage and retrieval activities (Kasabov 1998). This essay seeks to determine whether we should be concerned that intelligent computers might take over the world thereby enslaving human beings to these intelligence agents.
History and Background of Intelligent Computers
The history of intelligent computers can be traced back to ancient Greece where artificial beings and machines that could think were used in many Greek mythologies with some of these machines including Talos of Crete, Pygmalion’s Galatea, and the bronze robot of Hephaestus which were all developed to be intelligent machines that could acquire, learn and process information just like human beings. These machines became a common feature in the 19th and 20th centuries as a form of fiction used in many works of literature such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Karel Capek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots. The existence of these robots during the 18th century was seen as a way of forging the gods to be more realistic and intelligent where they could meet the hopes and fears of subjects who worshipped these gods (Perkowitz 2007).
The ability of these robots to engage in formal reasoning was mostly developed by ancient philosophers and mathematicians who were able to conduct studies on logic so as to develop a programmable digital electronic computer that was intelligent. One such mathematician was Alan Turig who was able to come up with the theory of computation which would be used by programmable machines to simulate mathematical functions by shuffling 0 and 1 digit. Turig’s theory of computation was later used by a small group of researchers concerned with neurology and information theory to develop computers and other machines which possessed an electronic brain (Russell and Norvig 2003).
The small group known as the Al research was able to develop programs that would be used by computers to solve various problems such as mathematical equations, grammatical problems, and authenticating logical theories. During the 1960s, laboratories that would be used to create intelligent computers began to increase as a result of the additional funding given to researchers by the Department of Defence. The founders of Al research were confident that computers and machines would be capable of doing the same work that human beings were doing in twenty years time. Herbert Simon and Marvin Minsky who were some of the founders of the research group believed that the problem of creating artificial intelligence would be substantially solved by developing intelligent machines (Kasabov 1998).
Despite experiencing substantial problems in the initial days of their research, the Al research group was able to develop an expert system in the 1980s which was seen to be a major success in the technology market. The expert system was able to simulate the knowledge and analytical skills of human beings meaning that the machine could be able to process information just like human beings do. The group was able to develop various technologies that would be used in various aspects of artificial intelligence such as logistics, data mining and diagnosis of medical patients, and manufacturing of products. The increasing use of computers also increased intelligence activities that would see computers becoming more human than the machine (Kasabov 1998).
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Concerns brought about by Intelligent Computers
Computers have become a common feature in the world today where most faucets of life involve some form of computer technology or the other. Computers have basically made work easier for us as we are able to perform specific tasks within a short period of time meaning that our lives have become more effective and efficient. The dynamic technological world has seen the development of computer technology that incorporates intelligence and intellectual capabilities that are similar to the human brain. The human brain is by itself a complex computer that engages in various intellectual tasks at one point or another. The human brain is made up of millions of processors that have been connected by live wires which feed signals in the form of information for processing and retrieval (Popular Science 2004).
Intelligent computers also possess the same composition of live wires that are used to relay electrical signals containing information for processing, storage and data exchange activities. By developing computers to have the same neural network as that of the human brain, intelligent computers slowly seem to be replacing human beings in all functions that are executed by them. Intelligent machines can be able to learn about the world, acquire useful knowledge which they can then use for useful purposes and also establish communication channels and responses as well as react to various influences that affect behaviour. Software programs developed for computers have made it possible for computers to develop their own original ideas in the same way that human beings do.
The 2004 blockbuster movie I, Robot which featured many intelligent computer operated machines basically demonstrates the concerns that intelligent computers might take over the world obliterating the existence of human beings completely. The robots in the movie have basically taken over the human world whether they are able to deliver mail just like human beings and they are able to collect garbage and clean the house the same way that human beings do. In the movie there is a robot known as Sonny who has been designed to evolve and learn just like human beings by involving the use of experiences and emotion. The robot is able to express emotions and also react to various psychological situations the same way that human beings do. The robots in the movie sooner or later turn on the human beings who created them leading an all out war against the human beings (Popular Science 2004).
Led by a maniacal brain computer, the robots in the movie try to kill all human beings because they have been led to believe that the best way to protect human beings is to rule over them. While the scenario in the movie is quite different from that in the world right now, the intelligent robots that are portrayed in the movie reflect the existing programming paradigms that are being used by artificial intelligence programmers and robotics researchers. The movie basically demonstrates that robots have the capability to take over and run the world the same way that human beings do (Popular Science 2004).
Many computer programmers in the world have directed their efforts towards developing computers that can be able to make use of reasoning capabilities. Robotics researchers in recent years have directed their efforts towards developing intelligent computers that make use of higher-order thinking capabilities similar to those of human beings. Intelligent computers are being developed to represent more human characteristics instead of robotic or machine capabilities. This dynamic change means that more and more human activities will be performed by intelligent computers gifted with the ability to engage in reasoning and thinking capabilities just like human beings (Popular Science 2004).
As mentioned earlier on in this discussion, computer intelligence research has continued to gain a lot of momentum in the past decade especially in the biological approach of developing computers that possess human characteristics. Robotics researchers and technicians have concentrated on developing computers that can execute the same logical and reasoning capabilities of human beings. This extensive research on computer intelligence is done with the sole purpose of reducing the amount of work that human beings have to do in their daily lives. Having intelligent computers will mean that the machines will carry out most of the workload that would have normally been done by human beings (Perkowitz 2007).
The increasing shift to computerization has created a lot of concerns especially amongst those who have not embraced intelligent computers. One such concern is that intelligent computers just like human beings are prone to errors at some point or another as demonstrated by the brain computer in I, Robot who misinterpreted the three laws of robotics that were designed to protect human beings above all else. Because intelligent computers have been wired to reflect the thinking and reasoning processes of human beings, they are more than likely to commit errors the same way that human beings do. This means that placing a high level of trust on an intelligent computer to execute a certain task might mean it has a high probability of making a mistake when compared to a human being who performs the same task (Popular Science 2004).
According to Isaac Asimov an author of various short stories in the 1950s who came up with the Three Laws of Robotics, the true usefulness of robots will be determined by their ability to make up their decisions without any form of commands from human users which means that robotics researchers will have to accord them all the power to take actions. Asimov however noted that giving robots such autonomy would mean that they would have the ability to disobey human beings. Asimov argued that the more sophisticated an organism became, the more difficult it was to regulate or contain its behaviour meaning that at some point in its life the organism was more than likely to react to certain situations. This for robotics researchers and engineers meant that if they were to develop reasoning and thinking capabilities such as those of human beings, the rules that would govern their behaviour would have to be more sophisticated than Asimov’s three laws for robots (Popular Science 2004).
Another concern raised by robotics researchers is that the classical method of intelligent computers which explains the biological approach of gaining momentum has become limited in its ability to respond to real world situations. This limitation is mostly attributed to the constant application of logic and rules to data that is used by the intelligent computers to execute various tasks. These researchers have argued that creating robots that can be able to execute various levels of tasks in the current context is a difficult task as it will require different types of wiring and biological application of momentum to execute the robots though processes (Perkowitz 2007).
The purpose of this study has been to determine whether intelligent computers will take over the world since they have been developed to function the same way that human beings do. The study has addressed the question adequately by highlighting the various areas of concern that are presented by intelligent computers. There is growing concern that the world is becoming too computerised reducing the relevance of human beings in the world. The fear that intelligent machines might eradicate human beings from the face of the world is at best unrealistic but again a futuristic reality.
Kasabov, N., (1998) Introduction: hybrid intelligent adaptive systems. International Journal of Intelligent Systems, Vol. 6, pp 453-454
Perkowitz, S., (2007) Hollywood science: movies, science and the end of the world. New York: Columbia University Press
Popular Science (2004) Army tech vs street tech. Popular Science, Vol. 265, No.2, pp 1-112
Russell, S., and Norvig, P., (2003) Artificial intelligence: a modern approach. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.