Making machines with brains

转载 2004年09月29日 19:03:00

Making machines with brains

By 21ST
Published on 2001-10-15
Posted on 2002-07-01 00:00:00


WHAT is the "cleverest" machine in history? If you're anything like nine out of ten people in the world, you'll say it's a computer, a machine with mathematical logic (数学逻辑) that can reason in the same way as humans.

Alan Mathison Turing never expected to be the father of a machine with such a title.

He was born in London in 1912, the second of his parents' two sons. His parents worked in India while Turing and his brother spent their childhoods in Britain.

Turing's loneliness during this time may have led to his lifelong interest in how the human mind works. He believed that the mind creates its own world when the real world is not acceptable to it. At 13, he already showed a talent for mathematics. He wasn't perfect though. His teachers said his work was hard to read.

After graduating from Cambridge University, he remained there as a teacher. At that time, his interest in the human mind led him to draw a machine.

He described it as a typewriter-like device. It could read instructions (指令) that were placed in code on a special tape. The machine moved from one tape to the next - responding to commands and changing its responses to do whatever it was told to do.

In 1937, Turing wrote a report about his machine. However, few people understood what he was talking about.

Even fewer would have predicted (预测) that Turing's machine would finally become one of the greatest inventions of the century.

But the report changed Turing's whole life. After the start of World War II, the British Government ordered him to serve in a special department. The task of all those working there was to break codes used by the Nazis (纳粹).

Turing's talent shone in this top secret work. He played a major role in designing an early computer-like machine that could decipher (破译) Nazi codes at high speed.

If you're anything like nine out of ten people in the world: 如果你同大多数人一样
reason v. 推理
show a talent for: 显示在...方面的才能
respond to command: 对命令做出反应
a rosy future: 光明的前景
After the war, he returned to Cambridge, hoping to return to his life as a teacher. But he was offered the chance to build a machine based on his ideas from 1937.

After building his machine, he continued to write and to think. He saw a rosy future for what was now becoming known as the computer. But other parts of his life were very unhappy. On June 7, 1954, he killed himself.

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