Computers and Intelligence: an Introduction to Alan Turing
96 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
What makes a machine a computer? What is an algorithm, and why is it essential to computation? Can an algorithm “learn”—and if so, is it possible to build an “electronic brain” that’s functionally indistinguishable from human intelligence? In this course, we’ll examine the foundations of computing—what a computer is; how it functions; and in what sense it’s “intelligent”—via a study of the work of mathematician and pioneering computer scientist, Alan Turing. We’ll focus particularly on Turing’s two seminal papers: “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” (1936) in which he first elaborates a theory of computation, via his definition of Turing machines; and “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” (1950) in which he proposes the Turing Test as a measure of computer intelligence. How, we’ll ask, is the universal Turing machine conceptually central to modern computing? What mathematical problem were Turing machines devised to solve? What would it mean for a computer to be able to “think”? And, can a machine “learn” by updating its algorithms in response to inputs and experience?
In addition to Turing’s two papers, we’ll read selections from Chris Bernhardt’s Turing’s Vision: The Birth of Computer Science, Charles Petzold’s The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine, and Andrew Hodges’s definitive biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm
April 06 — May 04, 2020
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Monday, March 13th.