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Machines would be more useful if they could learn to perform tasks for which they were not given precise methods. Difficulties that attend giving a machine this ability are discussed. It is proposed that the program of a stored-program computer be gradually improved by a learning procedure which tries many programs and chooses, from the instructions that may occupy a given location, the one most often associated with a successful result. An experimental test of this principle is described in detail. Preliminary results, which show limited success, are reported and interpreted. Further results and conclusions will appear in the second part of the paper.
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