Re: Babbage/Menabrea: Analytical Engine

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Wed Feb 21 2001 - 18:31:03 GMT

On Mon, 19 Feb 2001, Francis-Oladipo Marinho wrote:

> Marinho:
> intelligence as I interpret it is mathematical
> calculation with an aspect of reasoning. In other words computation
> with understanding.

What is understanding?

> Marinho:
> ...a tool dedicated to performing
> mindless calculations using specified algorithms, thereby leaving human
> beings more time to do the intelligent reasoning.

And what is that, and how is it done?

> I find it interesting that there is no knowledge or
> insight at that stage as to how the implementation of one of the basic
> mathematical operations would be handled....
> is important to remember that all this was an idea and had
> not actually been implemented even though there were plans and drawings
> all over the place.

So our generation is not the first to talk about "computations" without
implementing them...

> One such claim... was the one pertaining to the speed of the
> machine... able to perform a multiplication in three minutes. ...yet
> 31 years after the lecture... a working Analytic engine still had not
> been built... I'm however not trying to imply that Charles Babbage was
> a "Bad Ideas" man and his machine was all talk... a working Difference
> Engine was eventually built in 1854 and it is clear that Babbage had
> some very sound ideas....

So are there "computational conjectures," like mathematical
conjectures, whose only proof can come from implementing them?

Stevan Harnad

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