beanz Magazine

The History of Artificial Intelligence

Robin Zebrowski on Flickr

The many pieces that make up AI have been built and used for thousands of years in many cultures.

The quest to add intelligence to objects we create — also known as Artificial Intelligence or AI — goes back to ancient China, Egypt, and Greece, as well as Renaissance Europe and the Ottoman Empire.

AI is a mix of robots, expert systems, logic, and intelligent software that mimic human behavior to do useful tasks and help guide humans. While our tools today are more sophisticated, people have thought a long time about what it means to create human intelligence in a machine.

In the past, artificial intelligence evolved along a number of paths:

  • Automatons are non-electronic machines that move, often in ways we think of as human or animal behaviors. Ancient automatons followed a clearly defined rules using basic conditional logic to perform tasks. Examples from the ancient world range from door openers mentioned in Homer to a human-like automaton Yen Shi reportedly showed to King Mu in China around 1000 BC which worked so well he had to break apart his invention to prove a human was not inside.
  • Calculators did basic math useful in astronomy and other activities. The Antikythera found on a shipwreck in 1900-1901 is the earliest known analog computer, dating back to 200-150 BC, and used to calculate the positions of stars and planets, as well as dates of the original Olympic Games. Calculators are critical to the history of artificial intelligence because the need to create accurate tables of pre-calculated values led to the Analytic Engine, designed by Charles Babbage in the 1840s, which inspired the earliest computers created in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Data management also is important. The satire, Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726, mentions The Engine which stores and creates knowledge, an idea which can be traced back to the Arab zairja, devices that generated ideas by mechanical means. Today we call this process brainstorming which may include machines or software to generate and store ideas.
  • Concepts such as binary numbers, conditional logic, deductive and inductive reasoning, and more evolved from Aristotle through the work of philosophers, mathematicians, and eventually computer scientists.

The biggest difference between modern and ancient AI? Modern AI includes the ability for computers to make decisions, for example, to learn based on their experiences sorting parts in a bin by trial and error.

Here is a simple timeline from the print magazine version of this story to give you an idea how some of these threads evolved into what we call artificial intelligence, from the ancient world at the top to the modern world at the bottom.

history-ai-timeline

 

Learn More

Automatons

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automaton

Antikythera

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

Syllogism

http://literarydevices.net/syllogism/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogism

Deductive Reasoning vs Inductive Reasoning

http://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductive_reasoning
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deductive_reasoning

Thomas Hobbes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hobbes

Gottfried Leibniz

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz

The Engine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Engine
http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/gullivers-engine/

Ramon Liull

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramon_Llull

Zairja

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zairja

Gulliver’s Travels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulliver’s_Travels

2000 Years of Computing History

http://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/
http://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/topics

Charles Babbage

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage

The Difference Engine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine

The Analytical Engine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytical_Engine

Timeline of Artificial Intelligence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_artificial_intelligence
http://projects.csail.mit.edu/films/aifilms/AIFilms.html

History of Artificial Intelligence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_artificial_intelligence

15 Key Moments in the History of Artificial Intelligence

http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zq376fr

Also In The February 2016 Issue

Ideas for most young kids (and their families), from board games and more offline options to online games and apps.

Computers can be programmed to make intelligent decisions. Does that make a computer intelligent?

The many pieces that make up AI have been built and used for thousands of years in many cultures.

Math circles are groups of students who come together to have fun discussing and solving intriguing math questions.

Unit testing tests a set of code with data to test with the code and details about how the code is used and operated upon.

There are several places to go online to play classic video games like Donkey Kong and Castlevania.

How we manage limited resources and share costs is an important question far beyond software development.

For twenty years, since 1996, cars have used computers to control different parts of the car.

Danny Fenjves currently is the founder of Upperline, teaching students how to turn their ideas into reality through programming.

This Computational Fairy Tale explains how loops work through the sad tale of Simon, the hapless apprentice to a blacksmith.

Links from the bottom of all the February 2016 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for February 2016.