Who Created the First Artificial Intelligence?

Lately, the doomsayers out there want us to believe that Artificial Intelligence will be the end of art, and probably more. In fact, apparently, some people are using AIs to write their blog posts for them. Maybe I should ask an AI about:

Who Invented the Artificial Intelligence?

Well, I did. I went to ChatGPT and ask the AI that specific question. Here is its answer:

The first artificial intelligence was created by Alan Turing in 1950. He developed the Turing Test as a way to determine whether a machine was capable of intelligent behavior. This test is still used today as a standard for evaluating the performance of AI systems.

This is not true, but it is the first answer that Google also gave when asked the same question. That’s probably why the AI was wrong. If the most popular answer to a question is not the good one, it will probably soon become. That’s how History is written.

But that’s not the question. Truth is, the idea of Artificial Intelligence came long before anyone thought of the name AI or even created one. Before we explore in that direction, I asked another question to the AI: what is the definition of Artificial Intelligence? The response:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a machine or computer program to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving, and decision-making. These tasks may include recognizing patterns, understanding natural language, and making predictions or decisions based on data. The goal of AI research is to develop systems that can mimic human cognitive abilities, allowing them to perform tasks that would otherwise be too complex or time-consuming for humans to perform.

Harrison Ford is testing for AI in Blade runner (1982, Real. Ridley Scott) – Collection Christophel / RnB © The ladd company / Warner Bros

The First Fictional Artificial Intelligence

With a bit of a stretch of the imagination, we could go back to Greek Mythology to find the seeds of what would be one day called “Artificial Intelligence.” Indeed, some may amalgamate the idea of giving life to an inanimate life-like object with Artificial Intelligence. But when we are talking about AI today, it’s not necessary to go too metaphorical. In fact, when talking about computers and machines, it’s probably better to stick to the more modern era.

This brings us to 1726 and the satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. In it, we can find a description of what would be a computer. It’s called The Engine, but if this idea of a machine could give answers to questions asked, the description was far from one of an AI. It’s a start. Years passed, almost two centuries in fact.

I already talked about it in my article titled Who invented the Robot?, the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Czech writer Karel Čapek introduces the word “robot” and a bit more as its machine became self-aware and revolts against their human masters. This might be the first AI in fiction, as we think of AI today. The next one would be found in the 1927 science-fiction film Metropolis.

Nathaniel Rochester, Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Claude Shannon, Ray Solomonoff, and other scientists at the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence (Photo credit: Margaret Minsky).

The Real Artificial Intelligence

Before the robot uprising could happen, real robots equipped with real AI need to be created. This means, computers needed to be created. That’s why Alan Turing is credited with the creation of AI. But he only thought of “a way to determine whether a machine was capable of intelligent behavior.” He didn’t create an AI. In fact, he didn’t even invent the expression.

As my friend the AI tells it (when I asked: “who coined the expression ‘artificial intelligence?’”):

The term “artificial intelligence” was coined by John McCarthy, an American computer scientist, in 1956. McCarthy was one of the pioneers of AI research and is often referred to as the “father of AI.” He organized the first conference on the topic, which was held at Dartmouth College in 1956 and is considered the birth of the field of AI. The term “artificial intelligence” has since become widely used to refer to the development of intelligent machines and systems.

A bit before that, in 1952, a computer scientist named Arthur Samuel developed a checkers-playing computer program, it was the first to independently learn how to play a game.

Then, in 1955, Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, and Cliff Shaw (a researcher, an economist, and a programmer) created the “Logic Theorist,” the first program that was deliberately engineered to perform automated reasoning. That’s why it is called “the first artificial intelligence program.”When it was presented at the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence (DSRPAI) hosted by John McCarthy, the field of AI research was officially created.

The following year, Frank Rosenblatt develops the Perceptron, a form of neural network that was supposed to “eventually be able to learn, make decisions, and translate languages.” It never did, but it was just the beginning!

In fact, the field of Artificial Intelligence research has still a long way to go, even if notable progress has been made since the 1950s.

A Final AI Word

To conclude, I asked the AI for a book recommendation on the subject:

If you are looking for a book that covers the history of artificial intelligence, a good place to start is “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach” by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig. This book is widely considered to be the standard textbook on AI and provides a comprehensive overview of the field, including its history and key concepts. The book covers the development of AI from its early beginnings in the 1950s to the latest advances in the field, and includes chapters on topics such as machine learning, natural language processing, and robotics. It is a well-written and accessible introduction to the history of AI.

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