Mind Matters

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Writers and movie makers have long prophesied the moment when machines become “smarter” than human beings. But how exactly is this done? In reality it is much harder to configure the pathways of intelligent machines than to just stick a man into a metallic suit.

The history of “calculating machines” is full of eccentric dreamers, tinkerers, and crackpots, some of whom even managed a modicum of success. Not until the twentieth century however, since the 1960’s specifically, has the experiment achieved the level of barest sentience. That is in large part due to Marvin Minsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) whose revolutionary idea was to turn thought into a science. How do we think? What are the processes that allow thought to happen? And most elementary of all, why do we think?

Of course another reason that machines can more closely mimic thought is microelectronics. The closer computer scientists can copy brain anatomy the more likely it is that they can reproduce the mind. This has led to brilliant studies in the pathology of memory. Will we someday create a brain, a mind in a laboratory? Some say scientists already have. In an old story by Isaac Asimov humans create the ultimate machine to answer the riddle of the universe, and long after mankind is extinct the machine derives the answer. Intelligent machines may never answer the ultimate question for us, but it is too late to stop them, they are already here.