On The Road To Artificial Intelligence (Shiva) Review | Amstrad Computer User - Everygamegoing

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On The Road To Artificial Intelligence
By Shiva
Amstrad CPC464/664

Published in Amstrad Computer User #8

On The Road To Artificial Intelligence: Amstrad CPC464

These titles don't get any shorter, do they? I don't think this one is too accurate, either. My dictionary defines intelligence as 'intellect: quickness of understanding'. Intellect is 'the faculty of knowing and reasoning'. Current computer technology, be it an Amstrad micro or a Cray supercomputer, fails all of the above tests. A computer knows nothing; it reasons only in the sense that it will produce results from data using its list of rules (but so does a pocket calculator); it has no understanding.

In essence, any computer is just a collection of switches that can be on or off. The switch states represent numbers, and can be altered using rigid rules fundamental to the hardware design. A machine code program is just a list of these rules. We can use the numbers to represent objects in the real world, and model physical and mathematical processes with suitable choices of rules to manipulate the numbers. But the whole process is completely predictable: given the initial state of the computer, we can always calculate the end state.

It happens that by far the quickest way of obtaining the end result is to actually run the program, which is why we build and use computers. It just isn't sensible to talk about computers being intelligent.

The author himself questions the validity of describing computers as intelligent, but fudges the answer a bit. The trouble is, artificial intelligence is a nice buzzword with sales impact. A more honest title would have been 'On The Road To Faking Intelligence', but it wouldn't have looked so good on the bookshelves.

Please don't think I'm attacking Jeremy Vine over the content of his book, because I'm not. It's just the labelling of it that bothers me. The book itself is actually a good guide to the techniques of text handling - the sort of thing that is so useful in up-market adventure games which allow very complex commands to be input and acted upon, or in the development of a really friendly user interface for a piece of business software.

All the BASIC keywords for manipulating text, such as PRINT, INPUT and the string-handling commands are covered in some detail, and much useful advice is imparted on good programming technique.

The book closes with two long example programs. Sigmund is a version of the psychoanalysis program which takes the "patient's" input and chooses some very convincing responses which, at times, really do seem to constitute a conversation.

Interviewer is a version of Sigmund which conducts a job interview. Both programs are impressive - at times you could believe a real person is answering you - but please, Jeremy, don't describe the replies as intelligent. They are sensible, which not the same thing at all.

Peter Green

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