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Man versus computer


For more than a hundred years, writers have been interested in the power of machines - and what happens when they go wrong. Before computers became part of modern life, they began to appear in science fiction stories. Often, these computers begin working for humans, but later they refuse to do it and start to do frightening and dangerous things.

A good example of this kind of science fiction is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, by Harlan Ellison. In this story, there are three very large and powerful countries in the world. The three countries are at war, and they use computers to fight the war. However, the computers come angry with the humans. They stop fighting, and work together to kill the humans. They kill everyone in the world except for 5 people. They keep these five people like animals. The idea of computers that are more powerful than humans is interesting to scientists too. That is why IBM spent a lot of time and money building a chess computer called Deep Blue. They wanted to show that a computer could win against Gary Kasparov, the best chess player in the world.

In 1996, Deep Blue played Kasparov six times. Kasparov won the match, but IBM knew that their computer could do better. They did a lot of work on the computer and its software, and in 1997, Deep Blue and Kasparov played again. This time, Deep Blue won the match (3.5 to 2.5).

A lot of newspapers wrote about Deep Blue and Kasparov. They said that it was the beginning, of a new age: computers had finally become more intelligent than humans. However, Deep Blue had help from humans. Its software was written by five different computer technicians and a very good chess player. Also, it is important to remember that chess is a mathematical game. Computers are good at chess because they can do millions of calculations every second. Deep Blue can look at 200,000,000 different chess positions every second; a human chess player like Kasparov can look at three! In some ways, it is amazing that computers do not win at chess every time.

Computers can follow instructions and play mathematical games very well, but are they really intelligent? Do they really think in the same way that human beings think? These are difficult questions, and scientists do not always agree on the answers. Some scientists believe that the human brain is just like a very powerful computer; so if we can make a computer that is powerful enough, it will think like a human brain. Other scientists believe that the human brain does not do calculations in the same way as a computer. They think that one day a really powerful computer may do some of the things that a human brain does, but it will never really think like one.

In the past, people thought that computers did not have any imagination - they could never invent jokes, or write beautiful music. However, software programmers have recently taught computers to do many different things which need imagination. For example, Paul Hodgson is a programmer and he also likes jazz. He wrote some music software for his computer; the computer can now invent pieces of music in the same way as a jazz musician. The computer is not a very good jazz musician - but as the software gets better, so will the music.

In fact, music, like chess, is quite mathematical. Perhaps it is not a surprise that computers are good at both. One of the first computer technicians, Alan Turing, was interested in the question 'Can a computer really think like a human?', so he invented the Turing Test. To do the test, you sit at a computer and 'talk' (using messages) to someone in a different room. That 'someone' might be a person or it might be a computer. If you think it is a person but it is really a computer, that computer has passed the Turing Test.

Every year programmers try to write software which makes the computer pass the Turing test. There is a prize of 100,000 dollars for the first computer to pass the test. Alan Turing himself made this prediction: 'A computer will pass the Turing Test before the end of the twentieth century.' But he was wrong, and so far, nobody has won the prize.


Ex.1. Answer these questions:


1. What company built Deep Blue?

2. What did the company want to show?

3. Who won the chess match between Gary Kasparov and the computer Deep Blue in 1997?

4. Who wrote programs for Deep Blue?

5. What are the questions that scientists do not always agree about?

6. Why are computers good at chess and music?

7. How much is the prize for passing the Turing Test?

8. How can a computer pass the Turing Test?

9. Has any computer passed the Turing Test?


Ex.2 Look the text through and find the words for these definitions:


  • What you get when you win something
  • A person who works with machines
  • Instructions for a computer to follow
  • A story about people and machines, usually in the future
  • Questions to find out if somebody knows or can do something
  • To shout


Ex.3 Choose the right verb for each noun and then translate the word combinations:

to make, to do, to win, to follow, to be, to become, to go

a. _____________instructions,

b. _____________predictions

c. _____________calculations

d. _____________a prize

e. _____________at war

f. _____________wrong

g. _____________angry with somebody

Make your own sentences with these word combinations


Ex.4 Word-building. a)Fill in the gaps.

Verb Noun Adjective

to surprise ________ _________

to invent ________ _________

_________ power _________

_________ imagination _________

_________ ________ interested

_________ ________ frightening


b) Find the words with the same root for the ones below:

music, science, mathematics

Ex. 5 Think of ten questions to ask a computer doing the Turing Test. What questions will a computer find most difficult?


Ex. 6 Put the words into right order to make sentences.


1. computer, really, сan, a, think, a, human, like?

2. pass, programmers, try, software, which, to write, makes the computer, the Turing test

3. taught, programmers, recently, software, have, imagination, computers, to do, things, need, which


Ex. 7 Find key words in the text. Use them to retell the text.




  1. To refuse отказываться
  2. frightening страшный, пугающий
  3. Science fiction научная фантастика
  4. To be at war воевать
  5. Humans люди
  6. intelligent разумный, умный
  7. amazing изумительный, удивительный
  8. in the same way таким же образом
  9. to think like human brain думать также, как человеческий мозг
  10. versus против


Text 9

Read the text and think of positive and negative things about the Internet.

Date: 2015-01-12; view: 1657

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