“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Wednesday, December 2

3: How Computers Think

I'm going to keep this section in the simplest language I can. Unfortunately to discuss computers intelligently, you've got to understand some basic jargon. Just like you've heard of a fuel-injector on a car, you'll need to have an idea what someone is talking about when discussing RAM. You may not be able to point to either, but you'll get the gist of what they're talking about.

One of the coolest ideas in computing is the idea that we can build thinking machines. This goes back for centuries. Medieval inventors tried it. Chinese geniuses gave it a go. Everyone seems to have had a try at a thinking machine at one time or another. The concept is one of the cornerstones of the entire science fiction genre. This concept is known as AI (always big letters denoting Artificial Intelligence). Now your average computer absolutely does not have anything to do with AI. Remember, your computer is a tool, not a thinking, feeling, intelligent being. You can't hurt its feelings. It won't pout. And it never loses your big presentation out of spite. It is an incredibly complex system of programs, however. Complex systems tend to generate complex behavior. So, even though your computer doesn't think, sometimes you can almost hear it chuckling under it's fan exhaust right after your e-mail for the last eight years mysteriously vanishes.

I promise you, it is absolutely not a personal attack on you by your computer.