What is Artificial Intelligence?

Essay by babyviking February 2005

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It is argued that AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been in existence, or at least the ideas of AI have existed since the ancient Egyptians. Evidence of this has been found in Egyptian folklore. Concepts of intelligent artefacts have also been found in Greek mythological literature. Mechanical devices and toys were actually constructed and demonstrated by Hero, Daedalus and other real persons.

Early attempts at AI were neural networks modelled after the ones in the human brain. Success was minimal at best because of the lack of computer technology needed to calculate such large equations. The real breakthrough came with the advent of the electronic computer in 1941. As a result of this the technology was finally available to create machine intelligence. It became possible to create programs that perform difficult intellectual tasks.

In the early days of the electronic computer however, computers were generally used for number crunching. That is to say that the programs written for these computers were dumb.

They only performed tasks they were programmed to do, no more, no less. The machines were not able to learn or change in there behaviour through usage or experience. It was not until the early 1950s that a link between machines and human intelligence was observed. An American called Norbert Wiener was one of the first people to observe the feedback theory principle. One of the best examples of this theory is the thermostat. A thermostat controls the temperature of an environment by measuring the actual temperature of the room where it is situated and reacting accordingly. If the temperature falls below that to which the thermostat set then the thermostat will turn the switch to the on position therefore turning the heating on. When the temperature rises above the point to which the thermostat is set then the...