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The Human Computer: Comparisons Between Digital and Human Computing Systems

on June 26, 2014

Alan Turing, the father of Artificial Intelligence, discussed the development of computers as human-like machines. His most interesting article ( is an easy but informative read. Here are some of the most interesting ideas on the similarities between humans and computers.

Humans are computers in their own way. As Alan Turing claims when he compares digital computers with human computers, digital computers “are intended to carry out any operations which could be done by a human computer.” Humans, like computers, must follow set rules, provided to them in a book or the code in the case of a computer. Algorithms that provide instructions to computers are visible in our daily life as well. Turing’s example shows a boy whose mother reminds him everyday to call the cobbler to see if her shoes are ready to be picked up. Instead of reminding him everyday, she can write a note and post it where he sees it every day before he leaves the house.

Ever since the beginning of computer development, computers have been modeled after human actions and have become increasingly successful at mimicking them. Both humans in their nervous system and computers use fast electric signals.

In terms of computer learning, Turing suggests two approaches. While some suggest that computers should do abstract activities, like counting money or playing chess, others suggest that humans teach computers like they teach children.

More than half a century later, some of Turing’s visions have become realities. Working with user interface and user experience design, humans are able to tailor computer systems to the needs of an ever-expanding population. With companies like Google living out Turing’s visions, it may seem as though we are close to the complete discovery of the field of Artificial Intelligence. However, as Turing proclaimed at the end of his futuristic article,  “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

Smile and wave, Vrinda Vasavada 🙂


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