Methods used to create intelligence.


  1. Introduction
  2. Neural Networks
    1. The structure of Neurons
    2. Binary Neuron Theory
    3. Boole and Logic
    4. Brain Circuits and parallel computation
    5. Constraints
    6. Impressive results and Conclusion
  3. Problem Solving
    1. Chess
    2. Expert systems
    3. Frames and Knowledge representation
  4. Conclusion


In the quest to create intelligent machines, the field of Artificial Intelligence has split into several different approaches based on the opinions about the most promising methods and theories. These rivaling theories have lead researchers in one of two basic approaches; bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-up theorists believe the best way to achieve artificial intelligence is to build electronic replicas of the human brain's complex network of neurons, while the top-down approach attempts to mimic the brain's behavior with computer programs.

Neural Networks and Parallel Computation

The human brain is made up of a web of billions of cells called neurons, and understanding its complexities is seen as one of the last frontiers in scientific research. It is the aim of AI researchers who prefer this bottom-up approach to construct electronic circuits that act as neurons do in the human brain. Although much of the working of the brain remains unknown, the complex network of neurons is what gives humans intelligent characteristics. By itself, a neuron is not intelligent, but when grouped together, neurons are able to pass electrical signals through networks.

The neuron "firing", passing a signal to the next in the chain.

Research has shown that a signal received by a neuron travels through the dendrite region, and down the axon. Separating nerve cells is a gap called the synapse. In order for the signal to be transferred to the next neuron, the signal must be converted from electrical to chemical energy. The signal can then be received by the next neuron and processed.

Warren McCulloch after completing medical school at Yale, along with Walter Pitts a mathematician proposed a hypothesis to explain the fundamentals of how neural networks made the brain work. Based on experiments with neurons, McCulloch and Pitts showed that neurons might be considered devices for processing binary numbers. An important back of mathematic logic, binary numbers (represented as 1's and 0's or true and false) were also the basis of the electronic computer. This link is the basis of computer-simulated neural networks, also know as Parallel computing.

A century earlier the true / false nature of binary numbers was theorized in 1854 by George Boole in his postulates concerning the Laws of Thought. Boole's principles make up what is known as Boolean algebra, the collection of logic concerning AND, OR, NOT operands. For example according to the Laws of thought the statement: (for this example consider all apples red)

Boole also assumed that the human mind works according to these laws, it performs logical operations that could be reasoned. Ninety years later, Claude Shannon applied Boole's principles in circuits, the blueprint for electronic computers. Boole's contribution to the future of computing and Artificial Intelligence was immeasurable, and his logic is the basis of neural networks.

McCulloch and Pitts, using Boole's principles, wrote a paper on neural network theory. The thesis dealt with how the networks of connected neurons could perform logical operations. It also stated that, one the level of a single neuron, the release or failure to release an impulse was the basis by which the brain makes true / false decisions. Using the idea of feedback theory, they described the loop which existed between the senses ---> brain ---> muscles, and likewise concluded that Memory could be defined as the signals in a closed loop of neurons. Although we now know that logic in the brain occurs at a level higher then McCulloch and Pitts theorized, their contributions were important to AI because they showed how the firing of signals between connected neurons could cause the brains to make decisions. McCulloch and Pitt's theory is the basis of the artificial neural network theory.

Using this theory, McCulloch and Pitts then designed electronic replicas of neural networks, to show how electronic networks could generate logical processes. They also stated that neural networks may, in the future, be able to learn, and recognize patterns. The results of their research and two of Weiner's books served to increase enthusiasm, and laboratories of computer simulated neurons were set up across the country.

Two major factors have inhibited the development of full scale neural networks. Because of the expense of constructing a machine to simulate neurons, it was expensive even to construct neural networks with the number of neurons in an ant. Although the cost of components have decreased, the computer would have to grow thousands of times larger to be on the scale of the human brain. The second factor is current computer architecture. The standard Von Neuman computer, the architecture of nearly all computers, lacks an adequate number of pathways between components. Researchers are now developing alternate architectures for use with neural networks.

Even with these inhibiting factors, artificial neural networks have presented some impressive results. Frank Rosenblatt, experimenting with computer simulated networks, was able to create a machine that could mimic the human thinking process, and recognize letters. But, with new top-down methods becoming popular, parallel computing was put on hold. Now neural networks are making a return, and some researchers believe that with new computer architectures, parallel computing and the bottom-up theory will be a driving factor in creating artificial intelligence.

Top Down Approaches; Expert Systems

Because of the large storage capacity of computers, expert systems had the potential to interpret statistics, in order to formulate rules. An expert system works much like a detective solves a mystery. Using the information, and logic or rules, an expert system can solve the problem. For example it the expert system was designed to distinguish birds it may have the following:

Charts like these represent the logic of expert systems. Using a similar set of rules, experts can have a variety of applications. With improved interfacing, computers may begin to find a larger place in society.


AI-based game playing programs combine intelligence with entertainment. On game with strong AI ties is chess. World-champion chess playing programs can see ahead twenty plus moves in advance for each move they make. In addition, the programs have an ability to get progressably better over time because of the ability to learn. Chess programs do not play chess as humans do. In three minutes, Deep Thought (a master program) considers 126 million moves, while human chessmaster on average considers less than 2 moves. Herbert Simon suggested that human chess masters are familiar with favorable board positions, and the relationship with thousands of pieces in small areas. Computers on the other hand, do not take hunches into account. The next move comes from exhaustive searches into all moves, and the consequences of the moves based on prior learning. Chess programs, running on Cray super computers have attained a rating of 2600 (senior master), in the range of Gary Kasparov, the Russian world champion.


On method that many programs use to represent knowledge are frames. Pioneered by Marvin Minsky, frame theory revolves around packets of information. For example, say the situation was a birthday party. A computer could call on its birthday frame, and use the information contained in the frame, to apply to the situation. The computer knows that there is usually cake and presents because of the information contained in the knowledge frame. Frames can also overlap, or contain sub-frames. The use of frames also allows the computer to add knowledge. Although not embraced by all AI developers, frames have been used in comprehension programs.


This page touched on some of the main methods used to create intelligence. These approaches have been applied to a variety of programs. As we progress in the development of Artificial Intelligence, other theories will be available, in addition to building on today's methods.