A Brief History of AI

Beth Mutch
Video Producer + Project Manager
Josh Goossen
Visual Content Lead

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of our lives, but have you ever wondered how we got here? The journey of AI began long before the recent advancements we see today. Let's dive into the fascinating history of AI, tracing its roots back to the 1950s.

Alan Turing, a name familiar to many, laid the foundation for AI with his Universal Turing Machine in 1936. Besides his significant contributions to computer development, Turing also had an interest in AI. In 1950, he published a groundbreaking paper titled "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," where he pondered the question, "Can machines think?"

Turing proposed a theoretical game to test computers' ability to recognize human-like responses. He acknowledged that machines excelled in calculations but lacked imagination. Turing believed that by quantifying imaginative exercises into logical characters, we could teach machines to be more human-like.

While Turing's ideas were visionary, there was a major obstacle: computers at that time couldn't retain commands; they could only perform them. Additionally, leasing a computer was prohibitively expensive, costing around $200,000 per month (adjusted for inflation).

In 1955, Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, and John Clifford Shaw developed Logic Theorist, a program capable of solving mathematical problems. This marked an important milestone in AI, even though the concept was limited to solving specific mathematical tasks.

The invention of microchips in 1958 revolutionized the computing landscape, making computers more accessible and efficient in data collection and storage. Machines could now perform tasks according to instructions and adapt to variants they encountered.

In 1964, the first system capable of understanding natural language, the way we speak, was created. This breakthrough laid the groundwork for ELIZA, the first chatbot developed at MIT in 1965.

ELIZA used pattern matching to interpret user input and generate appropriate responses. Although ELIZA's responses were often deflective, the chatbot provided a glimpse into the potential of AI.

After the initial excitement, progress in AI slowed down. Many considered the existing applications of AI inadequate for practical use. However, in the 1980s, the emergence of "If THEN" expert systems breathed new life into the field. These systems provided results based on specific prompts, although they had their limitations.

A defining moment came in 1997 when IBM's Deep Blue defeated chess champion Gary Kasparov. This victory showcased the power of AI in strategic games. Deep Blue's success was possible due to the increased storage capacity of computers, enabling them to calculate deep into matches.

The advent of big data further propelled AI advancements. Moore's Law, predicting a doubling of transistors in integrated circuits every two years, provided machines with more storage capacity. With increased volume, variety, velocity, and veracity of data, AI started to unlock new possibilities.

Looking ahead, AI stands at the forefront of technological advancements. As we explore the potential of quantum computing and navigate the era of big data, we must remember the human aspect behind these machines. AI itself is neutral; it's our responsible use and management of AI that truly matters.

The journey of AI has been a remarkable one, from Turing's theoretical questions to the development of AI applications that mimic human intelligence. As we continue pushing the boundaries, let's embrace the opportunities while remaining mindful of the ethical implications. Together, we can shape a future where AI serves as a powerful tool for progress and innovation.

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