“Artificial Intelligence” is currently the hottest buzzword in tech. And with good reason – after decades of research and development, the last few years have seen a number of techniques that have previously been the preserve of science fiction slowly transform into science fact.
Already AI techniques are a deep part of our lives: AI determines our search results, translates our voices into meaningful instructions for computers and can even help sort our cucumbers (more on that later). In the next few years we’ll be using AI to drive our cars, answer our customer service enquiries and, well, countless other things.
But how did we get here? Where did this powerful new technology come from? Here’s ten of the big milestones that led us to these exciting times.
Getting the ‘Big Idea’
The concept of AI didn’t suddenly appear – it is the subject of a deep, philosophical debate which still rages today: Can a machine truly think like a human? Can a machine be human? One of the first people to think about this was René Descartes, way back in 1637, in a book called Discourse on the Method. Amazingly, given at the time even an Amstrad Em@iler would have seemed impossibly futuristic, Descartes actually summed up some off the crucial questions and challenges technologists would have to overcome:
“If there were machines which bore a resemblance to our bodies and imitated our actions as closely as possible for all practical purposes, we should still have two very certain means of recognizing that they were not real men.”
He goes on to explain that in his view, machines could never use words or “put together signs” to “declare our thoughts to others”, and that even if we could conceive of such a machine, “it is not conceivable that such a machine should produce different arrangements of words so as to give an appropriately meaningful answer to whatever is said in its presence, as the dullest of men can do.”
He then goes on to describe the big challenge of now: creating a generalised AI rather than something narrowly focused – and how the limitations of current AI would expose how the machine is definitely not a human:
“Even though some machines might do some things as well as we do them, or perhaps even better, they would inevitably fail in others, which would reveal that they are acting not from understanding, but only from the disposition of their organs.”
So now, thanks to Descartes, when it comes to AI, we have the challenge.
Image Credit: Techradar
News This Week
Researchers have used liquid metals to develop new bacteria-destroying technology that could be the answer to the deadly problem of antibiotic resistance. The technology uses nano-sized particles of magnetic liquid metal to shred bacteria [...]
Lithium ion batteries often grow needle-like structures between electrodes that can short out the batteries and sometimes cause fires. Now, an international team of researchers has found a way to grow and observe these [...]
Researchers from ETH Zurich and the National University of Singapore have developed a new kind of bandage that helps blood to clot and doesn’t stick to the wound (Nature Communications, "Superhydrophobic hemostatic nanofiber [...]
Some quantum computers and networks store their information in an electron’s spin, which can be up or down – like the zeros or ones in a conventional computer. They can also be a combination [...]
The device uses lasers to accelerate electrons along an etched channel. In a full-scale particle accelerator, electrons fly along a kilometers-long path as microwaves bombard them, boosting the particles to near light speed. Such a [...]
Researchers found a way to create lasers smaller than red blood cells. These microlasers convert infrared light into light at higher frequencies. Made from nanoparticles, these are among the smallest, continuously emitting lasers of [...]
AS artificial intelligence technology continues to develop, like any new tech, questions begin to arise on its capabilities in warfare. Technology could ultimately be catastrophic for mankind. During an interview with Express.co.uk, he argued [...]
The University of Surrey has developed a robust multi-layer nano-barrier for ultra-lightweight and stable carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRPs) that could be used to build high precision instrument structures for future space missions. CFRP [...]
Scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand say they have discovered how viruses that specifically kill bacteria can outwit bacteria by hiding from their defenses. These findings are important for the development [...]
Most synthetic materials, including those in battery electrodes, polymer membranes, and catalysts, degrade over time because they don't have internal repair mechanisms. If you could distribute autonomous microrobots within these materials, then you could [...]
For the first time, researchers have been able to record, frame-by-frame, how an electron interacts with certain atomic vibrations in a solid. The technique captures a process that commonly causes electrical resistance in materials [...]
Each Cyclops had a single eye because, legend has it, the mythical giants traded the other one with the god Hades in return for the ability to see into the future. But Hades tricked [...]
Over 200 molecules have been discovered in space, some (like Buckminsterfullerene) very complex with carbon atoms. Besides being intrinsically interesting, these molecules radiate away heat, helping giant clouds of interstellar material cool and contract [...]