Portrayed in the movies as science fiction, the Artificial Intelligence is increasingly becoming part of our lives in many different ways, sometimes not easily perceived.
The creation of artificial intelligence, ie the increase of the available stock of intelligence (if this would be possible to measure) via artificial means, is by itself a revolution in the way the human beings see the world and the role of the human brain in it.
But artificial intelligence goes a long way into the past. In Ancient Greece, the ideas of intelligent elements (at that time, mechanical statues) were introduced in the mythology. Initially the artificial intelligence was focused on the mechanical aspect of it rather than in the thinking and learning aspect.
While during the Dark Ages there was very little scientific development in Europe (although too much military development), the Arab world saw during that period their age of light and scientific edge. The area of artificial intelligence was amongst the ones with a higher learning, including the concepts of alchemical creation of life and programmable robots. Indeed the medieval period in the Islamic world, which included parts of the Iberian peninsula in Europe, was instrumental for the development of mankind.
The period after the Renaissance saw a reconstruction of the scientific development in Europe, mainly in Western Europe, and several of today’s main signs of artificial intelligence were then discovered. Simple objects like mechanical calculators and digital calculators date from the XVII Century.
The Industrial Revolution created a step-change in this apparent gradual development of artificial intelligence knowledge, as it became clear it would be possible to mimic the human brain or even supplant it. Although the technology wasn’t yet advanced enough at the time to put these ideas into reality, the concept of a humanized machine came out to be a real project.
The most important and relevant developments came after the World War II and the economic and scientific development that followed, including the development motivated by the Cold War. In 1951 the first working artificial intelligence programs were written at the University of Manchester, a checkers and a chess program. By 1955 versions of these programs were already able to learn to play, thus creating a whole new perspective of what artificial intelligence could become – not only a stand-alone program but also with growth potential.
Since then the level of advances has been increasingly fast, up to our days. Today it is possible to see a humanized robot, able to perform the same tasks as a human being, with cognitive functions and able to learn on the way. This is the 18th century prophecy coming to life. The fact is, the developments won’t stop here, and even though we all see every day examples of the use of artificial intelligence around us, the trend will continue to rise. Will the human brain ever become redundant?
Pedro Teixeira is Commercial and SEO Manager at CogniFit, an innovative company which develops software for measuring and training the cognitive abilities – brain fitness.