Even though Artificial Intelligence might seem like a fairly recent concept, the truth is that the idea of creating artificial men or thinking machines was developed a long time ago. Just think about the Greek myth of Galatea, the homunculus of the alchemists, the Golem of the jewish folklore, and the automatons built by different civilizations.
Let’s learn a little bit more about the history of Artificial Intelligence, to understand how it became what it is today.
1. Studying formal reasoning
Through the ages, philosophers have been trying to understand and to mechanize the process of human thought. Many of them have developed their own methods and tried to establish a system of symbols that could allow them to model human thinking.
For example, during the 17th century, philosophers Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes have tried to prove that reasoning was in fact as systematic as geometry and algebra. Their work, and the work of many more philosophers, has served as an inspiration for scientists who began to think it would be possible for them to create thinking machines.
2. The Turing Test
The history of artificial intelligence made a significant breakthrough in 1950. A mathematician and computer scientist named Alan Turing wrote a paper about the possibility of creating such thinking machines. According to his theory, if a machine could use a teleprinter to carry on a conversation that would be impossible to distinguish from a conversation with a human being, it would be a proof that this machine was thinking.
He developed the Turing Test, in which a judge would evaluate a written conversation between a human and a machine, and try to determine which answers came from the machine. This test has been both influential and criticized.
3. The field of Artificial Intelligence is founded
It was during a conference at the Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire that the term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined. We could say the field of AI was founded during this conference in 1956, when it was discussed that learning and other aspects of intelligence could be simulated by a machine.
The scientists who attended the Dartmouth Conference were extremely enthusiastic about the future of Artificial Intelligence, and they expected incredible progress very quickly.
4. A lot of optimism
The first scientists and researchers working in this brand new field were extremely optimistic. They were convinced that within a few years, they could create a machine that would be as intelligent as an average human being, and that intelligent machines would be able to do anything a human can do.
Unfortunately for them, the problems they faced were more important than they had expected, and the funding for their work was eventually cut. What was called the first AI winter occured between 1974 and 1980, which left a lasting impact on the history of Artificial Intelligence.
5. A new direction with expert systems
After the first winter of AI, the work of researchers took a new direction. Instead of focusing on trying to replicate human thought and intelligence, they developed the idea that machines could be programmed with a wealth of knowledge in a specific domain. They were contemplating the notion that intelligence was based on the ability to deal with knowledge.
Expert systems are computer programs that were created with the mission of answering questions and solving problems, by relying on the knowledge of human experts in a particular field.
6. A new approach based on robotics
Expert systems were difficult and expensive to maintain. The development of Artificial Intelligence eventually faced more financial setbacks, and the second winter of AI occured between 1987 and 1993.
During the late 1980s, however, many researchers started following a new approach based on robotics. They believed that to truly be intelligent, a machine needed a body that would allow it to move and to perceive different aspects of the world. They argued that possessing a body was necessary to be able to reason and to learn.
7. Artificial Intelligence and big data
In the beginning of the 21st century, computers became faster, machine learning allowed computers to perform specific tasks, and interest in Artificial Intelligence increased.
Big data, a field that features ways to collect, analyze and deal with massive amounts of information, is now often compared with the field of Artificial Intelligence. While big data represents a raw input of information, AI is the output of this data after it has been properly processed.
8. Bots and virtual assistants
Over the decades, the history of artificial intelligence has evolved to its most innovative state. Today, artificial Intelligence is a part of many different industries. The mainsteram use of customer service chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming more common. The popularity makes it easier to create and customize than ever before.
They can provide customer support, perform repetitive tasks that humans don’t enjoy performing, and help entrepreneurs make business decisions, among other things. We now have robots with Artificial Intelligence, as well as programs that can speak in a natural and convincing way. The future of Artificial Intelligence looks very promising.