the Logic World

November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Now, let’s look 60 years back into the past, when the first electronic computer with capacity to store its own programs was invented; or even earlier, more than 200 years ago, when the “difference engine” (a mechanical device to solve math problems) was brought into being by a mathematics professor in Britain; or to travel even further along the timeline to about 2400 BCE, when the abacus was created by the Chinese. Abacus, difference engine, electronic computer in the past, tablet computer today and robots with clearly-defined division of labor in the future, this movement is both a path of technological innovations and a triumph of theorists. Our facilitated ability to transfer the workload of human brains to automatic machine processors asks enhanced knowledge about the invisible but governing forces held by the logic world. The simple casual effect produces an endless chain of events and it seems hard for us to trace it down to the very end. Therefore, most of the time, we can only see a reduced logic world which is presented, recorded and then studied carefully by minds with powerful reasoning and abstraction capacity. Logic endows computer programming the potential to create an independently functioning world rather than for it to simply provide tools that ease calculation. The “independence” means that computer programs have the “intelligence”, which is actually the application of logic rules, to generate complete event chains without interferences of human activities. As we throw work with increased continuity and less need for human meddling for computers to operate on, we eliminate human impacts in a lot of areas.

A decade ago, it would be hard to imagine that a majority of stock trading were to be carried out by computers. By studying stock patterns, including trading rules, setting parameters, adjusting their values according to market fluctuations, people remove significant psychological factors in decision-making process of the buying and selling and make trading stocks into a game of absolute rationality. Another illustration is the Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer which beat the world champion Kasparov after being heavily upgraded several times. Though human brain is a fairly integrated and convoluted device that is able to generate intelligence in almost an infinite array of concrete forms, it can be matched or even outperformed in certain aspects by a machine. This machine might have a comparable complexity in structure for completing a particular job and can demonstrate a more consistent rationality in behaviors than human beings. Currently, we may only have some stock-trading programs and the Deep Blue, whose functions are still strictly restricted to one area. Yet, it is predictable that more integrated machines are to come in the future.

When we progressed from the abacus to computers, we transformed a calculation helper into a rather independent, multi-task and “intelligent” assistant. We also grant the machine greater autonomy by letting it run freely on itself, only to comply with logic laws. Through deepening understanding about the nature and diving into logic world, people hone their ability in dealing with complexity and building logically and structurally intricate systems. However, is that possible that one day, as the Deep Blue forebodes, the machine as a system governed by logic could defeat human brains? The continuing hard work being done by theorists might one day lead us to see a much more intact picture of the logic world. And at that time, we may come to understand that each new discovery that has been made about the logic system though awards us more power in building intelligence, does no change to the very nature of it. Therefore, we are not manipulating logic but simply making correct use of it. The true power still lies in nature itself and thus, only until human beings are as almighty and sophisticated as nature itself, we may not be able to create a machine as delicately and intelligently as nature has constructed us.

Yijing S.


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