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CSAIL hosts debate on robotic 'nature' and future

Event will celebrate Turing's 'Computable Numbers' paper

"Creativity: The Mind, Machines, and Mathematics," a debate and discussion hosted by Rodney Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Alan Turing's groundbreaking paper "On Computable Numbers," on Thursday, Nov. 30, in the Stata Center, Room 123.

Turing's paper is widely recognized as having laid a theoretical foundation for the computer evolution of the 20th century. The CSAIL event will explore the limits of artificial intelligence and the nature of human creativity.

A debate between noted Yale computer scientist David Gelernter and inventor/technologist Ray Kurzweil will open the afternoon with a lively discussion of such questions as, "Are we limited to building super-intelligent, robotic 'zombies'?" and "Will it be possible and desirable for us to build conscious, creative, volitional, perhaps even 'spiritual' machines?"

Gelernter is the author of "The Muse in the Machine" (1994), on poetry and artificial intelligence, and "Machine Beauty" (1998), on aesthetics and technology.

Kurzweil (S.B. 1970) was the principal developer of the first omni-font optical character recognition system, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, and the first text-to-speech synthesizer, among other inventions. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002.

Following the Gelernter-Kurzweil debate, B. Jack Copeland, director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, will present the CSAIL lecture in Turing's honor.

Copeland, a 2000 senior fellow in the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, is the author of "The Essential Turing" (2004); "Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine" (2005); and "Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers" (2006).

The CSAIL debate runs from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., followed by refreshments. The lecture begins at 6:15 p.m.

The Stata Center is located at 32 Vassar St., Cambridge.

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