(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
A Premise to the History of Artificial Intelligence
Surprisingly few people ask "why?" Why did the whole program of A.I. get started in the first place? What is the goal? Why try and build a machine that behaves (and feels?) like a human being?
There were and there are several motivations. I believe the very first spark was pure scientific curiosity. A century ago an influential German mathematician, David Hilbert, outlined a program to axiomatize mathematics as a sort of challenge for the world's mathematicians. In a sense, he asked if we can discover a procedure that will allow anybody to solve any mathematical problem: run that procedure and it will prove any theorem. In 1931 Kurt Goedel proved his Theorem of Incompleteness, which was a response to Hilbert's challenge. It concluded: "No, that's not possible, because there will always be at least one proposition that we cannot prove true or false"; but in 1936 Alan Turing offered his solution, now known as the Universal Turing Machine, which is as close as we can get to Hilbert's dream procedure. Today's computers, including your laptop, your notepad and your smartphone, are Universal Turing Machines. And then the next step was to wonder if that machine can be said to be "intelligent", i.e. can
behave like a human being (Turing's Test), can have conscious states, and can
be even smarter than its creator (the Singularity).
The second motivation was purely business. Automation has been a source of productivity increase and wealth creation since ancient times. The rate of automation accelerated during the industrial revolution and it still is an important factor in economic development. There isn't a day when a human being isn't replaced by a machine. Machines work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, don't go on strike, don't have to stop for lunch, don't have to sleep, don't get sick, don't get angry or sad. Either they function or they don't. If they don't, we simply replace them with other machines. Automation was pervasive in the textile industry way before computers were invented. Domestic appliances like dishwashers automated household chores. Assembly lines automated manufacturing. Agricultural machines automated grueling rural chores. That trend continues. As i type, machines (sensing
cameras hanging from traffic lights remotely connected to the traffic division
of a city) are replacing traffic police in many cities of the world to direct
traffic (and to catch drivers who don't stop at red lights).
A third motivation was idealistic. An "expert system" could provide the service that the best expert in the world provides. The difference is that the human expert cannot be replicated all over the world, the expert system could. Imagine if we had an expert system that clones the greatest doctors in the world and then we could make that expert system available for free to the world's population (rich or poor), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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