Hackers – 3D Printers and Turing Machines!

We had a small but dedicated team of Hackers for our first week back at CoderDojo Athenry last Saturday.

To begin, we started working on 3D printers. 3D printers are a fantastic technology for turning 3D computer models into physical objects. Here are Kevin’s notes on how to set up a 3D printer: 3d-printer-setup (PDF)

Here are the configuration files needed for the Materia 101: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6otj5ok7i00ikds/Slic3r-Materia101-Settings.zip?dl=0

And here also is a diagram Kevin prepared, showing the 3D printing workflow:

3d-printing-workflow

In addition to setting up software for the 3D printers on group members’ Windows and Linux machines, we started planning potential projects for this year.

One possible project is to build an 8-bit PC from individual components. It was mentioned that it’s Turing complete, which led to a discussion of some concepts that are named after Alan Turing:

Turing Complete: a computer system is Turing Complete if it has the core features that mean it can run any algorithm. For a modern programming language, this means in practice: memory (variables); decisions (if statements); repetition (loops). However, this does not consider things like how data is input and output (file handling, displays, networking, etc), those secondary capabilities are a lot of what make computers useful.

A nice flip side of Turing Completeness is that if you are learning a new programming language, and you can figure out how to handle variables, decisions and loops in that language, you have mastered all the basics!

The Turing Test is a different concept that Alan Turing came up with, when he was thinking about early concepts of Artificial Intelligence (which was impressive considering how computers barely existed!) Rather than thinking about creating computer intelligence by replicating the functions of the human brain, he imagined an experiment where a human would communicate with either another human or a computer (selected at random); in the conversation, the asker could ask whatever they liked, and the human or computer answerer could try to deceive if they wished. If the experiment is repeated and askers cannot determine accurately whether the answerer is a human or computer, we should conclude that the computer is behaving intelligently.

Incidentally, Google’s recent Duplex demo, where an AI system can phone businesses to make appointments, is arguably an example of an AI system passing the Turing test, asn the people receiving the phone calls thought they were talking to a human:

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