Machines, minds and computers
Machines, minds and computers

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Machines, minds and computers

2 Minds

The limitations of the 18th century automata are obvious. Perhaps they are best summed up in the 20th-century mathematician Norbert Wiener's words:

Let us consider the activity of the little figures which dance on top of a music box. They move in accordance with a pattern which is set in advance, and in which the past activity of the figure has practically nothing to do with the pattern of the future activity. The probability that they will diverge from the pattern is nil.

Source: Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (1950)

This was as obvious to the people of the 18th century as it is to us. It was clear to them that mechanical automata, and probably animals too, lacked something crucial – some animating spark, some vital force, that would enable them to act intelligently and purposefully on their own. They lacked the quality of agency. They lacked minds.

M366_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus