The History of Artificial Intelligence

Timeline of major AI events


  1. Introduction
  2. Era of the Electronic Computer
  3. Beginnings of AI
  4. knowledge Expansion
  5. The multitude of Programs
  6. Transition from lab to life
  7. AI put to the test


Evidence of Artificial Intelligence folklore can be traced back to ancient Egypt, but with the development of the electronic computer in 1941, the technology finally became available to create machine intelligence. The term artificial intelligence was first coined in 1956, at the Dartmouth conference, and since then Artificial Intelligence has expanded because of the theories and principles developed by its dedicated researchers. Through its short modern history, advancement in the fields of AI have been slower than first estimated, progress continues to be made. From its birth 4 decades ago, there have been a variety of AI programs, and they have impacted other technological advancements.

The Era of the Computer:

In 1941 an invention revolutionized every aspect of the storage and processing of information. That invention, developed in both the US and Germany was the electronic computer. The first computers required large, separate air-conditioned rooms, and were a programmers nightmare, involving the separate configuration of thousands of wires to even get a program running.

The 1949 innovation, the stored program computer, made the job of entering a program easier, and advancements in computer theory lead to computer science, and eventually Artificial intelligence. With the invention of an electronic means of processing data, came a medium that made AI possible.

The Beginnings of AI:

Although the computer provided the technology necessary for AI, it was not until the early 1950's that the link between human intelligence and machines was really observed.
Norbert Wiener was one of the first Americans to make observations on the principle of feedback theory feedback theory. The most familiar example of feedback theory is the thermostat: It controls the temperature of an environment by gathering the actual temperature of the house, comparing it to the desired temperature, and responding by turning the heat up or down. What was so important about his research into feedback loops was that Wiener theorized that all intelligent behavior was the result of feedback mechanisms. Mechanisms that could possibly be simulated by machines. This discovery influenced much of early development of AI.

In late 1955, Newell and Simon developed The Logic Theorist, considered by many to be the first AI program. The program, representing each problem as a tree model, would attempt to solve it by selecting the branch that would most likely result in the correct conclusion. The impact that the logic theorist made on both the public and the field of AI has made it a crucial stepping stone in developing the AI field.

In 1956 John McCarthy regarded as the father of AI, organized a conference to draw the talent and expertise of others interested in machine intelligence for a month of brainstorming. He invited them to Vermont for "The Dartmouth summer research project on artificial intelligence." From that point on, because of McCarthy, the field would be known as Artificial intelligence. Although not a huge success, (explain) the Dartmouth conference did bring together the founders in AI, and served to lay the groundwork for the future of AI research.

Knowledge Expansion

In the seven years after the conference, AI began to pick up momentum. Although the field was still undefined, ideas formed at the conference were re-examined, and built upon. Centers for AI research began forming at Carnegie Mellon and MIT, and a new challenges were faced: further research was placed upon creating systems that could efficiently solve problems, by limiting the search, such as the Logic Theorist. And second, making systems that could learn by themselves.

In 1957, the first version of a new program The General Problem Solver(GPS) was tested. The program developed by the same pair which developed the Logic Theorist. The GPS was an extension of Wiener's feedback principle, and was capable of solving a greater extent of common sense problems. A couple of years after the GPS, IBM contracted a team to research artificial intelligence. Herbert Gelerneter spent 3 years working on a program for solving geometry theorems.

While more programs were being produced, McCarthy was busy developing a major breakthrough in AI history. In 1958 McCarthy announced his new development; the LISP language, which is still used today. LISP stands for LISt Processing, and was soon adopted as the language of choice among most AI developers.

In 1963 MIT received a 2.2 million dollar grant from the United States government to be used in researching Machine-Aided Cognition (artificial intelligence). The grant by the Department of Defense's Advanced research projects Agency (ARPA), to ensure that the US would stay ahead of the Soviet Union in technological advancements. The project served to increase the pace of development in AI research, by drawing computer scientists from around the world, and continues funding.

The Multitude of programs

The next few years showed a multitude of programs, one notably was SHRDLU. SHRDLU was part of the microworlds project, which consisted of research and programming in small worlds (such as with a limited number of geometric shapes). The MIT researchers headed by Marvin Minsky, demonstrated that when confined to a small subject matter, computer programs could solve spatial problems and logic problems. Other programs which appeared during the late 1960's were STUDENT, which could solve algebra story problems, and SIR which could understand simple English sentences. The result of these programs was a refinement in language comprehension and logic.

Another advancement in the 1970's was the advent of the expert system. Expert systems predict the probability of a solution under set conditions. For example:

Because of the large storage capacity of computers at the time, expert systems had the potential to interpret statistics, to formulate rules. And the applications in the market place were extensive, and over the course of ten years, expert systems had been introduced to forecast the stock market, aiding doctors with the ability to diagnose disease, and instruct miners to promising mineral locations. This was made possible because of the systems ability to store conditional rules, and a storage of information.

During the 1970's Many new methods in the development of AI were tested, notably Minsky's frames theory. Also David Marr proposed new theories about machine vision, for example, how it would be possible to distinguish an image based on the shading of an image, basic information on shapes, color, edges, and texture. With analysis of this information, frames of what an image might be could then be referenced. another development during this time was the PROLOGUE language. The language was proposed for In 1972,

During the 1980's AI was moving at a faster pace, and further into the corporate sector. In 1986, US sales of AI-related hardware and software surged to $425 million. Expert systems in particular demand because of their efficiency. Companies such as Digital Electronics were using XCON, an expert system designed to program the large VAX computers. DuPont, General Motors, and Boeing relied heavily on expert systems Indeed to keep up with the demand for the computer experts, companies such as Teknowledge and Intellicorp specializing in creating software to aid in producing expert systems formed. Other expert systems were designed to find and correct flaws in existing expert systems.

The Transition from Lab to Life

The impact of the computer technology, AI included was felt. No longer was the computer technology just part of a select few researchers in laboratories. The personal computer made its debut along with many technological magazines. Such foundations as the American Association for Artificial Intelligence also started. There was also, with the demand for AI development, a push for researchers to join private companies. 150 companies such as DEC which employed its AI research group of 700 personnel, spend $1 billion on internal AI groups.

Other fields of AI also made there way into the marketplace during the 1980's. One in particular was the machine vision field. The work by Minsky and Marr were now the foundation for the cameras and computers on assembly lines, performing quality control. Although crude, these systems could distinguish differences shapes in objects using black and white differences. By 1985 over a hundred companies offered machine vision systems in the US, and sales totaled $80 million.

The 1980's were not totally good for the AI industry. In 1986-87 the demand in AI systems decreased, and the industry lost almost a half of a billion dollars. Companies such as Teknowledge and Intellicorp together lost more than $6 million, about a third of there total earnings. The large losses convinced many research leaders to cut back funding. Another disappointment was the so called "smart truck" financed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The projects goal was to develop a robot that could perform many battlefield tasks. In 1989, due to project setbacks and unlikely success, the Pentagon cut funding for the project.

Despite these discouraging events, AI slowly recovered. New technology in Japan was being developed. Fuzzy logic, first pioneered in the US has the unique ability to make decisions under uncertain conditions. Also neural networks were being reconsidered as possible ways of achieving Artificial Intelligence. The 1980's introduced to its place in the corporate marketplace, and showed the technology had real life uses, ensuring it would be a key in the 21st century.

AI put to the Test

The military put AI based hardware to the test of war during Desert Storm. AI-based technologies were used in missile systems, heads-up-displays, and other advancements. AI has also made the transition to the home. With the popularity of the AI computer growing, the interest of the public has also grown. Applications for the Apple Macintosh and IBM compatible computer, such as voice and character recognition have become available. Also AI technology has made steadying camcorders simple using fuzzy logic. With a greater demand for AI-related technology, new advancements are becoming available. Inevitably Artificial Intelligence has, and will continue to affecting our lives.