Torch, Summer 1984

meaning apart from some informing vision. The question is, who will be providing that informing vision? Non-Christian values are clearly alive and well and operative in the contemporary arena of computer technology. Frankly, it is not at all clear to me that Christians have responded to the challenge of assigning a right signifi– cance to computers . Besides the per– vasive fear of touching one, which discourages use, there also exists a "bottom line mentality." It asks, what use can one make of the com– puter? How will it enhance the minis– try? These are important questions, but if they are the only ones asked, then I would suggest we Christians are in serious trouble . This one-sided thinking puts a high priority only on use and efficiency without regard to other fundamental human values. On the other hand, the dominant values of our culture are and will be re– flected in how computers are de– signed, programmed , and used. Futurists believe that computer sci– ence will provide the foundation for all human life and meaning. We might well ask then, if this is the case, what will serve as the founda– tion of this vital science? Quis cus– todiet custodem? (Who will guard the custodian?) Should not Christians' values be determinative? Is this not precisely what Christ meant when He commanded us to be salt and light in the world? Finally , it seems to me that there is no way to avoid the conclusion that the computer is an intelligence form . I realize that there are objections to this view, but we need to face the fact that computers do not necessarily do what we tell them to do . In a very real way they have enabled us to trans– cend ourselves, particularly with re– spect to our cognitive limitations. Joseph Weizenbaum, perhaps the major figure in artificial intelligence (AI) circles, is the computer scientist from MIT who developed the ELIZA program. He named it this because as with Shaw's Eliza in Pygmalion, Weizenbaum's version of Miss Doolittle learns to speak better. Can a software program implanted in a machine become greater than when it IO was written? This really the core of AI research - to create programs that simulate the creativity of human learning. Alan Turing proposed a test which has come to be known as the Turing Test. It would test the capacity of a computer to think. When Turing re– flected on what is the best indication of the presence of human characteris– tics , he settled on the capacity for dis– course as being foundational. Thus , Turing proposed to put a human judge or tester in a room where there were two computer terminals, one connected to a computer and the other to a person. The judge would not know which terminal was con– nected to which, but he could type into either terminal and receive back typed messages. The judge's job would be to carry out conversations with the entities on the end of the re– spective terminals and decide which was which . Turing's test has a compelling logic about it. If the intellectual ex– change which took place with the computer was indistinguishable from communication with a human being, then , for all intents and purposes, communication could be said to have taken place with another thinking being - a computer! Is any computer presently in exis– tence capable of passing the test? As far as I know, the answer thus far is no . But there is every reason to think that the day is not long in coming when the answer will be in the affirm– ative. Turing himself predicted that he expected computers to pass the test by the end of the century. From time to time , one laboratory or another claims that it has made a pretty good attempt at passing the test . Scientists who employ large computer conferencing systems re– port that they often find it difficult to be sure, for a brief period of time at least, whether they are talking to a computer or to one of their col– leagues. On one celebrated occasion at MIT, two scientists had been con– versing via a computer network when one person left the scene. Unwit– tingly, the other scientist continued to carry on a cheery conversation - but with the computer! Christopher Evans reports in– stances when he has conversed with a computer which he himself pro– grammed and found the computer's answers to be curiously perceptive and quite unpredictable . The Interna– tional Chess Master David Levy mar– vels at an experience which occurred in Toronto in August 1978. The com– puter chess champion of the world, Northwestern University's Chess 4. 7, made a number of moves which Levy called "uncannily human ." Levy himself suggested that Chess 4.7 passed the Turing Test. What does all this portend for the future? In the beginning of this article I stated that there is a subtle war being waged as to the meaning and signifi– cance of the computer. I have indi– cated my belief that computers are a value-productive technology and an intelligence form. We as Christians must not fear this technology. Rather, we must deconstruct the "mystical" atmosphere that sur– rounds computers and be aggres– sively engaged in the reconstruction of their meaning if we are to be on the "ground floor" of the computer revo– lution. This includes resisting the complacent strategy of just being users of technology. A community of users is not nearly enough. As long as it is the use-value which is predomin– ant in our schools and in our churches, we will never achieve the fully integrated world and life view which we desire so much . A basic presupposition of Chris– tian thought is that all human en– deavor is energized by values , whether godly or ungodly ones. Whose values direct computer tech– nology today? Whose values will shape computer science and thus the high tech world of tomorrow? Gary J. Percesepe is Assistant Profes– sor of Philosophy at Cedarville College. He received his B.A. from Cedarville Col– lege in 1975 , an M.A. from the University of Denver in 1978, and an M.A. from Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in 1978 . In August, he will complete his disser– tation for his Ph .D. from St. Louis University .