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INVENTING THE FUTURE TEACHING GUIDE:
Private Eyes


Computers in your shoes and clothing may seem like science fiction, but on the MIT campus, it's already happening. In fact, some MIT students wear their computers all the time. Such wearable computers can access a personal database to recall names, faces, even conversations from the past. One day soon, you may put on your computer instead of working at a desk. In some visions of the future, keyboards and the passive boxes that house the microprocessor will completely disappear.

Curriculum Links
Activity: Debating Artificial Intelligence
Did You Know?


CURRICULUM LINKS

COMPUTER SCIENCE

artificial intelligence

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RELATED Frontiers ACTIVITY

Show 403 Teaching Guide: "The Electronic Brain"


ACTIVITY: DEBATING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

As technology evolves, machines are becoming more "intelligent" and the boundaries between humans and machines are becoming less distinct. On this episode of Frontiers, you see examples of very smart computers and some intelligent applications, like smart rooms and autonomous agents.

The development of increasingly advanced technology in computers and robotics has sparked serious debate among scientists regarding the possible existence of artificial intelligence. Scientists divide into two basic factions. One group believes such development is possible in the relatively near future; the other disagrees, arguing that computers and machines will never achieve the equivalent of human intelligence.

How smart are smart rooms? Can a computer really be "smart" at all? Consider the possible answers to this question and debate the positions scientists held about artificial intelligence.

OBJECTIVE:

Investigate issues about computer technology by debating or role-playing various approaches.

PROCEDURE:

Divide into two groups, each with the task of defending one of the following positions:

  • Humans can, or will at some point, build machines that are intelligent, thinking and conscious.
  • Machines can never truly have intelligence, thought and consciousness.

TIPS:

Before jumping into your roles, spend some time reasoning out your argument. How are computers/machines similar to the human brain/body? How are they different? What is intelligence? When is something alive? You may wish to do some additional research to support your position.

It is not necessary for you to personally believe the opinion you are defending. As an exercise in debate, the point here is to take a position and articulate it as logically as you can. Afterwards, you can discuss your real feelings on the matter and analyze the strengths of the argument posed by each team.

DID YOU KNOW?

Computers have been programmed to succeed at human games like chess, checkers and Scrabble. In 1996, the IBM computer Deep Blue beat world chess champ Garry Kasparov in several games, but Kasparov prevailed to win, despite the computer's advantage of 32 microprocessors that could calculate 200 million chess positions per second. Although Kasparov concedes it is inevitable that a machine will beat a human in chess, for now the human brain proved it could outwit the machine strategically. A rematch has been scheduled for 1997.








 

Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.