Explaining how clever a computer is

When newcomers to computers ask me questions, I usually gather from their questions that they have a misconception concerning a computer’s intelligence.

This is a typical conversation:

Newbie: Blah, blah, blah…

Me: OK. Let me ask you a question. From a scale from zero to ten, how clever do you think a computer is?

Newbie: <Gives a high number, like nine or ten.>

Me: The correct answer is zero. A computer is completely and utterly dumb. It does what is told to by the programs programmers create.

Me (continuing): A computer is like a light switch. If you flip it up, the light will go on. If you flip it down, the light will go off. Think of all this functionality. Yet the light switch is wired that way. It has no notion of what it does and it is completely dumb. It is a circuit. This is also what the computer is, a circuit, albeit more complex and more functional.

Me (continuing): A computer is like a puppet, with a program being its puppeteer.


About Dimitrios Kalemis

I am a systems engineer specializing in Microsoft products and technologies. I am also an author. Please visit my blog to see the blog posts I have written, the books I have written and the applications I have created. I definitely recommend my blog posts under the category "Management", all my books and all my applications. I believe that you will find them interesting and useful. I am in the process of writing more blog posts and books, so please visit my blog from time to time to see what I come up with next. I am also active on other sites; links to those you can find in the "About me" page of my blog.
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