First the computer age then the artificial intelligence age.
Since the dawn of science, mankind has imagined a machine that could do what humans do. At first, it was simple devices that helped us farm the land and was often a combination of animals and machines. Later much more sophisticated machines launched us into the age of industrialization. Much work remained to be accomplished before anyone envisioned the artificial intelligence age.
We started simply designing machines that used coal or water power to drive increasingly complex mechanical machines. Then came the invention of the automobile thanks in no small part to the combustion engine. In the beginning, Henry Ford used peanut oil for fuel but with the discovery of crude oil and the eventual refinement of modern gasoline and diesel, this was soon abandoned. A consistent energy source was needed to fuel our need for machines.
As the field of mechanical engineering developed, some inventors started to think about creating the mechanical machine that could computation, reliving accountants and mathematicians from simple repetitive work. This machine started as the adding machine and cash register but entered in the age of IBM ( International Business Machines.)
The first computers where massively expensive ( for the times) and required enormous amounts of physical space.Necessity is the mother of invention and computers owe their existence to this real fact. It was the very pressing need to end world war 2 with Germany that provided the need. The Allied experts desperately needed to be able to crack the codes used by the Germans that were being generated by a machine known as the Enigma machine. For the first time, a machine was being used to thwart another machine.
To that end, a very secretive and well-funded effort was put into designing a machine that could crack the code. The best human code breakers on the planet have all failed to do so. And so the computer proved it’s worth.
Since that time computers have becomes smaller, cheaper and much more powerful. This progress was predicted early in the development of the semiconductor and expressed as a law. It is known as Moore’s Law.
By the early 1950’s computer development has progressed to the point that some experts started to theorize as to what it might eventually be capable of. Is it possible that someday a computer could be smarter than humans? Is it possible that a computer program could someday become self-aware and therefore alive?
The field of AI research was founded at a workshop held on the campus of Dartmouth College during the summer of 1956. Those who attended would become the leaders of AI research for decades. Many of them predicted that a machine as intelligent as a human being would exist in no more than a generation and they were given millions of dollars to make this vision come true.
The Artificial Intelligence Age Proved To Be Elusive.
Early on, it became obvious to researchers that they had grossly underestimated the difficulty of this dream due to computer hardware limitations. In 1973, governments stopped funding undirected research into artificial intelligence, and the science entered a dormant period became known as an “AI winter”.
By the late 80s, investors became disillusioned by the absence of the needed computer power (hardware) and withdrew funding again. There was a job to be done, but the state of the art for the computer was not yet capable.
Today we have amazing computer power available at our fingertips from devices ranging from smart-phones, tablets, laptops, table-tops, and supercomputers. It seems like every device we know of will eventually have an internet connection and some level of intelligence. Intel and many other chip manufacturers have active A.I. development projects.
On the drawing board are computers that do not use electrons as the basis. Light-based laser computers and even quantum-based computers are actively being researched and massive investment is heading towards it. This means we are probably close to a step change in computer power. From the past, we know that A.I. development has been slowed by computer power development. With today’s computers, amazing things are already being accomplished by A.I. programs.
A.I. programs already as of this writing are able to learn to drive an electric car, master the best human chess and Jeopardy players and forecast weather from massive lakes of data. Soon we will see advancements in predictive maintenance, health care, and robotics. If you are not familiar with the IBM Watson supercomputer and A.I. program it is very interesting.
The question now is given where we are today and looking at where computer hardware may soon take us, what will the future hold for A.I..? We are truly and quickly entering into the very real age of Artificial Intelligence.
Not to worry we are on this and will keep you updated with news, research, and opinion during this incredible time in history