Once the lifeblood of scary Hollywood sci-fi flicks, artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way in the last 50 years.
Explained as machines performing activities that once required human intelligence, the concept has been with us since the days of Greek mythology. But it wasn’t until the invention of a programmable digital computer in the 1940s that scientists seriously began exploring the possibility of creating an artificial or electronic brain.
In 1956, AI was established as a field of study by Dartmouth College ushering in the “golden years.” By the mid-1970s, the complications seemed insurmountable, and research funding all but dried up.
Undaunted, a handful of scientists continued to pursue their vision. While
no computer has yet achieved a level of intelligence equivalent to the human brain, there have been great strides in the last three decades.
Today, AI is all around us, and it doesn’t seem the least bit scary. Some computers can learn to read your handwriting and recognize your voice. A phone understands your spoken question and finds your friend; a GPS considers traffic conditions and changes your route.
Paul Saffo, from the research firm Discern Analytics, recently told the New York Times: “The most important new computer maker in Silicon Valley isn’t a computer maker at all, it’s Tesla (Motors),” makers of an electric car. “It’s a primitive robot that wraps around you.”
Once now-mobile computers understand their environment, they’ll lengthen the range of humans – or maybe replace them. Now that’s scary.