Puzzles that programs can’t solve

We like to think programs can solve everything, but there are a group of puzzles which just aren’t that conducive to algorithmic solutions. Why? Because these puzzles often require some form of visual interpretation to solve. Let’s consider an example.

A student was assigned a task to make a 2″ ∅ hole in a thin sheet of copper.
“I’ll go get a drill and chisel”, said the student to the teacher.
“I see you have a hammer and a flat file. Use those”, said the teacher.

To solve this problem, you have to understand how both the hammer and flat file can be manipulated in order to make a hole in the copper sheet.

The solution involves placing the sheet on a support which has a round hole in it. Hammer the sheet to make a cuplike depression. Turn over the sheet, file off the protuberance, and a round hole remains.

Could an intelligent algorithm figure this out? Probably not. Solving this problem requires some intuition, and an understanding of the tools, and how they can be used.

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