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Machines, minds and computers
Machines, minds and computers

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4.2 What computers can do

We're all aware in some way or another what computers are capable of. They play three-dimensional games, process words, control satellites and washing machines, make calculations, display movies, manipulate photographic images, and so on. Their powers seem endless.

It would be futile to multiply examples. In this section, I want to consider just two aspects of the digital computer's abilities that are, at the same time, rather more abstract than these concrete examples, and more relevant to our focus: artificial intelligence. They are the power of the digital computer to:

  1. work with models of real-world systems; and
  2. solve a special class of problems called optimisation problems.

Let's start with the first of these.