This first blog post will focus on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) evolved throughout the years, I will mention and describe some of the milestones of this evolution and analyse how it became part of our lives and how it will become even more important in the future. Digital technology has been one of the fastest-growing tech in the history of mankind, today our phones have hundreds of GB of storage and process data faster than a computer would a few decades ago, the only other branches of technology that have developed this quickly are weapons. It is not rare to hear how computers were ‘as big as a room’ but one of the most interesting examples of the leap of digital technology, specifically information technology, dates back to 1969 when a computer with only 14kb of ram steered and landed the Saturn V and its human hosts on the moon. To put that into perspective, the blog that I am now writing will occupy more than 14kb of space in my storage, nowadays, we are used of talking about Megabytes or Gigabytes, or even Terabytes. Using kilobytes for everyday use would be like weighing a person in grams. As per computer technology, AI is similarly comparable when it comes to fast technological progression. Before discussing the different milestone that paved the way for modern AI it is important to understand what AI is. A machine has artificial intelligence if it can interpret data, potentially learn from that data, and use that knowledge to adapt and achieve specific goals or, as I saw in a YouTube comment, “AI is math that mimics what a human would do” (Singh, 2019, 100 likes).
The difference between AI and other machines is, in fact, the intelligence part; our laptops are incredibly good at storing and processing data, but they do not know much about interpreting that data, let alone learn from it. The story of AI begins in 1951 when the first AI programs were written. They were very simple programs; one played checkers and the other one played chess, the latter became more important since chess developed into the new ‘Moon Landing’ of the AI race. The next big milestone in machine learning would have occurred when a machine would be able to beat a human at chess, this occurred in 1956 when MANIAC (???) defeated a novice chess player at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, very boring. So, the bar was moved upwards, now the new milestone was beating a world-class chess player, a Grandmaster, at his own game, humans, in general, were too easy to beat.
Meanwhile, the first AI program that could understand human language was created in 1964 and the following year the first chatbot, ELIZA, was invented. Fast forward 9 years and in 1974 the first autonomous vehicle was created. And then, 15 years later, the first autonomous vehicle using a neural network; a technique that performs machine learning by mimicking the network of neurons we have in our brain. This is all very interesting but back to the crucial milestone in AI, beating a Grandmaster at chess. For that the world had to wait until 1996 when Deep Blue, an AI created by IBM, defeated Garry Kasparov, the reigning world chess champion at the time, this version of Deep Blue calculated 100 million positions per second, which was still not enough to win the match, Kasparov won the three following games and drew twice. So, IBM went back to the drawing board and went for a second try a year later. The 1997 version of Deep Blue could calculate 200 million positions per second, twice as much as the year prior. This version of Deep Blue was made to win a match, a game was not enough anymore, and so it did. After a win, a loss and three draws Deep Blue crushed Kasparov in the overtime, winning game 6 and the match.
From there on the development grows exponentially, the more AI develops, the faster it develops. In 2002 iRobot introduces the Roomba, an autonomous vacuum cleaner, which is able to detect and avoid obstacles, mapping the environment it is cleaning for better efficiency, and always goes back to its charging post once it’s done cleaning. Two years later the U.S. military starts to consider the importance of autonomous vehicles and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) creates the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition for autonomous vehicles. The latter will later develop into the Urban Challenge, created in 2007, in which autonomous vehicles are required to respect traffic laws and operate in an urban environment. In 2009 Google begins the development of its own autonomous vehicle. In 2011 virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana are implemented into various devices. Now, in 2020, Tesla already has a car that can drive itself, YouTube uses an AI to suggests videos based on our preferences, and Google ads are customized based on our tastes and DARPA has a program that can defeat fighter jet pilots in a simulated dogfight. AI is already a big part of our lives, Amazon suggest items to buy based on what is in our cart, Gmail filter e-mail by analysing the content (they have to work on that a bit more) Facebook is able to detect suicidal thinking patterns by analysing posts, Google knows what you are searching for even before you finish your sentence, Grammarly and Microsoft word help us in correcting and improving our essays based on what type of writing we are doing (academic, informal), what our audience is (knowledgeable or general) and what the focus is (Business, Technical).
In the upcoming years, AI will acquire more importance in our lives, the number of autonomous cars on the roads will grow exponentially, the number of times Siri will not understand what we’re saying will diminish as its ability to understand human language and thought will improve, maybe even our local bar will have robot barmen that prepare cocktails or suggest new beers based on our tastes. All of this will occur in a couple of decades maximum, AI technology is growing faster than ever now, and this growth will only become quicker.
What do you think about the future of AI? In your opinion is it a bright or an uncertain future that of the coexistence of humans and AI?
Haenlein, Michael, & Kaplan, Andreas. (2019). A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence: On the Past, Present, and Future of Artificial Intelligence. California Management Review,61(4), 5-14.