13.2. AI Evolution

Mosaic portrait of Alan Turing using the mathematical analysis used to decode the Enigma machines during the World War II.
Mosaic portrait of Alan Turing” by Charis Tsevis CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

To understand where the development of intelligent systems is heading, it is important to explore it’s evolution. One of the first articles discussing the possibility of intelligent machines dates back to 1950, when Claude Shannon published Programming a Computer for Playing Chess which discuss the development of a chess playing program (Reynoso, 2021, May 25).

Around the same time, Alan Turing, a young British mathematician, explored the possibility of artificial intelligence in his 1950 paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence in which he discussed how to build intelligent machines and how to test their intelligence.

The Turing Test: Can Machines Think?

The Turing Test (referred to as the Imitation Game)  attempts to differentiate humans and machines.  In the test, a human judge asks a human and a machine questions. If the judge cannot reliably tell the difference between the machine and the human (imitating human behaviour), the machine is said to have passed the test, and therefore have the ability to think. There have been criticisms of the test, and Turing responded to some. He stated that he did not intend for the test to measure the presence of “consciousness” or “understanding”, as he did not believe this was relevant to the issues that he was addressing. The test is still referred to today.

The first official usage of the term “AI” was in 1956, at which point AI systems were used mainly to solve simple mathematical problems that were too tedious for humans. From 1957 to 1974, AI flourished. Computers could store more information and became faster, cheaper, and more accessible. Machine learning algorithms also improved and people got better at knowing which algorithm to apply to their problem. Early demonstrations such as Newell and Simon’s General Problem Solver and Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA showed promise toward the goals of problem solving and the interpretation of spoken language respectively.

In the 1980’s expert systems, which mimicked the decision making process of a human expert were introduced.  The Japanese government heavily funded expert systems and other AI related endeavors as part of their Fifth Generation Computer Project (FGCP).

In 1997, reigning world chess champion and grand master Gary Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue, a chess playing computer program. In the same year, speech recognition software, developed by Dragon Systems, was implemented on Windows. Even human emotion was fair game as evidenced by Kismet, a robot developed by Cynthia Breazeal that could recognize and display emotions.

In 2011, IBM’s Watson competed against two “Jeopardy!” winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and emerged victorious. In 2014, a Chatbot named Eugene Goostman becomes the first computer that passed the Turing Test developed by Alan Turing himself. In 2017, Google’s Alpha Go was able to defeat Chinese Go champion Ke Jie.

See some of these major events in the evolution of AI in the timeline below.

“Module 1: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” from  Thriving in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Ontario Tech University under a Creative Commons Attribution license, unless otherwise noted.

“The History of Artificial Intelligence” by Rockwell AnyohaHarvard University SITN Boston is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


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Information Systems for Business and Beyond Copyright © 2022 by Shauna Roch; James Fowler; Barbara Smith; and David Bourgeois is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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