Artificial intelligence

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn. It is also a field of study which tries to make computers "smart". John McCarthy came up with the name "Artificial Intelligence" in 1955.

The goal of AI research is to create computer programs that can learn, solve problems, and think logically. AI involves many different fields like computer science, mathematics, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. Eventually researchers hope to create a "General Artificial Intelligence" which can solve many problems instead of focusing on just one. Researchers are also trying to create creative and emotional AI which can possibly empathize or create art. Many approaches and tools have been tried.

History[change | change source]

Objects that look and act like humans exist in every major civilization. The first appearance of "Artificial Intelligence" is in Greek myths, like Talos of Crete or the bronze robot of Hephaestus. Humanoid robots were built by Yan Shi, Hero of Alexandria, and Al-Jazari. Sentient machines became popular in fiction during the 19th and 20th centuries with the stories of Frankenstein and R.U.R.

"Formal" logic was developed by ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians. This study of logic produced the idea of a computer in the 19th and 20th century. Mathematician Alan Turing's theory of computation said that any mathematical problem could be solved by processing 1's and 0's. Advances in neurology, information theory, and cybernetics convinced a small group of researchers that an electronic brain was possible.

AI research really started with a conference at Dartmouth College in 1956. It was basically a month long brainstorming session attended by many people that are important in AI today. At the conference they wrote programs that were amazing at the time, beating people at checkers or solving word problems. The Department of Defense started giving a lot of money to AI research and labs were created all over the world.

Unfortunately, researchers really underestimated just how hard some problems were. The tools they had used still did not give computers things like emotions or common sense. Mathematician James Lighthill wrote a report on AI saying that "in no part of the field have discoveries made so far produced the major impact that was then promised", and U.S and British governments wanted to fund more productive projects. Funding for AI research was cut, starting an "AI winter" where little to no research was done.

AI research revived in the 1980s because of the popularity of expert systems, which simulated the knowledge of a human expert. By 1985, 1 billion dollars were spent on AI. New, faster computers convinced U.S and British governments to start funding AI research again. However, the market for Lisp machines collapsed in 1987 and funding was pulled again, starting an even longer AI winter.

AI revived again in the 90s and early 2000s with its use in data mining and medical diagnosis. This was possible because of faster computers and focusing on solving more specific problems. In 1997, Deep Blue became the first computer program to beat chess world champion Garry Kasparov. Faster computers, advances in Deep Learning, and access to more data have made AI popular throughout the world. In 2011 IBM Watson beat the top two Jeopardy! players Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, and in 2016 Google's AlphaGo beat top Go player Lee Sedol 4 out of 5 times.

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