Science: The Thinking Machine

In the laboratory of Barnwood House Mental Hospital, on the outskirts of Gloucester, England, is a modest black contraption that looks like four storage batteries set in a square. Its only visible moving parts are four small magnets, one swinging like a compass needle over each box. Psychiatrist William Ross Ashby, who built the machine, thinks that it is the closest thing to a synthetic human brain so far designed by man.

Practical calculating machines, explains Dr. Ashby, merely take orders and act upon them, in complicated but predetermined ways. His machine, which he calls a "homeostat," is different. The present model...

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