The beginning of AI and its first breakthroughs

Over the past few years, artificial intelligence has found its way into numerous areas of our lives. Finance, healthcare, retail, education, manufacturing, to name but a few, are some of the industries that have integrated artificial intelligence capabilities into their businesses.

Clearly, we find ourselves on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that promises to dramatically change the society we live in. The future of mankind will fundamentally be impacted by the role technology plays in our lives and how well we manage to cope with all the transformations the new revolution will bring. But to fully acknowledge the implications, one must really understand the premises and beginnings of AI too.

The Imitation Game

British mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing is often considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. In 1936, he developed the Turing machine, which was an abstract model that could use a predefined set of rules to determine a result from a set of input variables. The machine consisted of a long tape divided into squares, each square representing a single symbol. Operating according to the directions of an instruction table, a reader could move the tape back and forth, reading one symbol at a time.

Fourteen years later, Alan Turing introduced the Turing Test, also known as the Imitation Game, which was considered to be the first attempt to measure if machines can be defined as intelligent. According to Turing, a machine could be perceived as intelligent, if it could mimic human behavior under specific conditions.

The Turing test consists of three terminals physically separated from each other, with one terminal being operated by a machine and the other two handled by humans. During the test, one of the humans will ask questions, using a specified format and context, to both the other human and the computer. If after a certain number of such interactions, the questioner cannot determine which one is the human, the machine is considered to have artificial intelligence. Although his test has been criticized by many, Alan Turing remains the one that opened the door to a field that would soon be called AI.

The Dartmouth Workshop

The official birth of AI took place in the summer of 1956 when John McCarthy held the first workshop on artificial intelligence at the Dartmouth College. The complete name of the workshop was the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence and the purpose of it was to discuss computers, natural language processingneural networks, theory of computation, abstraction and creativity.

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