AI Research

The Beginnings of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research – In The 1950s

With the development of the electronic computer in 1941 and the stored program computer in 1949 the conditions for research in artificial intelligence (AI) were given. Still, the observation of a link between human intelligence and machines was not widely observed until the late 1950s.

A discovery that influenced much of the early development of AI was made by Norbert Wiener. He was one of the first to theorise that all intelligent behaviour was the result of feedback mechanisms. Mechanisms that could possibly be simulated by machines. A further step towards the development of modern AI was the creation of The Logic Theorist. Designed by Newell and Simon in 1955 it may be considered the first AI program.

The person who finally coined the term artificial intelligence and is regarded as the father of AI is John McCarthy. In 1956 he organised a conference “The Dartmouth summer research project on artificial intelligence” to draw the talent and expertise of others interested in machine intelligence for a month of brainstorming. In the following years AI research centres began forming at the Carnegie Mellon University as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and new challenges were faced: 1) the creation of systems that could efficiently solve problems by limiting the search and 2) the construction of systems that could learn by themselves.

One of the results of the intensified research in AI was a novel program called The General Problem Solver, developed by Newell and Simon in 1957 (the same people who had created The Logic Theorist). It was an extension of Wiener’s feedback principle and capable of solving a greater extent of common sense problems. While more programs were developed a major breakthrough in AI history was the creation of the LISP (LISt Processing) language by John McCarthy in 1958. It was soon adopted by many AI researchers and is still in use today.

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