Introduction | The Rise of Intelligent Machines

Introduction | The Rise of Intelligent Machines

Part ONE

“I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted”

— Alan Turing, 1947 (Father of Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence)

Artificial Intelligence or AI (as is commonly abbreviated) is an exciting & emerging field in Computer Science, which deals with, making computers & machines act in a more intelligent way or rather in the way as we humans do. Prof. Nils J. Nilsson of Computer Science Department at Stanford University defines AI as, ‘The goal of work in artificial intelligence is to build machines that perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence’. It is pretty clear from this definition that such machines or computers should think & act in the same fashion as we humans do.

The history of AI can be traced hundreds of years back to the times of Greeks who fascinated about robots, or when Chinese & European Engineers built Automatons (well, Automatons are moving mechanical machines that can imitate human actions or perform various functions in predefined set of repetitive motions much like the Industrial robots we use today do). The foundation for AI as we know in present era was laid back by classical philosophers who tried to describe human thinking in symbolic system. However, it was only at a conference on the campus of Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire in the year 1956 that the term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was coined by John McCarthy (creator of popular AI programming language ‘LISP’).

Over the past few decades, a lot has happened in the field of AI & the field has seen many ups & downs. There has been a couple of ‘AI winter’ which are periods of time during which there was a reduced interest in AI & hence funding was reduced for the corresponding research work. Scientific community experienced two major AI winter, one from 1974 to 1980 & the other from 1987 to 1993 along with several other smaller episodes. However, overcoming all the odds, AI field has seen considerable success especially in the areas of search algorithms, machine learning algorithms, deep learning & integrating statistical analysis to understand the world around us, to name a few.

However, people are not able to notice most of the advancements though they use it regularly, for instance, the search suggestions by Google’s Search Engine are an implementation of the advancements in machine learning & search algorithms. Another exciting application of AI is by Facebook, the social networking giant. Facebook has recently rolled out system for users, wherein the software deployed is able to distinguish between the images of people & decide whether the images depict the same person. The spam filter in the email system, is another example where AI is used. The area of Machine Learning has seen fierce competition for intelligent personal assistant among the top industry leaders, with Microsoft launching Cortana, Apple launching Siri & Google’s own Google Now.

Continuous advancements in the field of AI has by far surpassed the original ideas & basic foundations laid by early inventors. Scientists & researchers in harmony with engineers are making impressive advancements & raising the bar with each passing day. Google is reportedly testing self-driving cars, people are talking about swarms of micro robots capable of working in close co-ordination & perform varied tasks, while some restaurants & factories in Southeast Asia are being operated solely by robots with minimal human interaction. With so much exciting happening in the AI field & with the magnitude of power AI possess that if it is used in correct fashion, our future will not be all the same as we know it today. It is thus evident that, Artificial Intelligence is here to stay for really a long time.

In the next article, why what we know today about AI may not be AI in true sense.

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