Is Artificial Intelligence Possible?

Artificial Intelligence has been brain-dead since the 1970s.” This rather ostentatious remark made by Marvin Minsky co-founder of the world-famous MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, was referring to the fact that researchers have been primarily concerned on small facets of machine intelligence as opposed to looking at the problem as a whole. This article examines the contemporary issues of artificial intelligence (AI) looking at the current status of the AI field together with potent arguments provided by leading experts to illustrate whether AI is an impossible concept to obtain.

Because of the scope and ambition, artificial intelligence defies simple definition. Initially AI was defined as “the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by men”. This somewhat meaningless definition shows how AI is still a young discipline and similar early definitions have been shaped by technological and theoretical progress made in the subject. So for the time being, a good general definition that illustrates the future challenges in the AI field was made by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) clarifying that AI is the “scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behaviour and their embodiment in machines”.

The term “artificial intelligence” was first coined by John McCarthy at a Conference at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 1956, but the concept of machine intelligence is in fact much older. In ancient Greek mythology the smith-god, Hephaestus, is credited with making Talos, a “bull-headed” bronze man who guarded Crete for King Minos by patrolling the island terrifying off impostors. Similarly in the 13th century mechanical talking heads were said to have been created to scare intruders, with Albert the Great and Roger Bacon reputedly among the owners. However, it is only in the last 50 years that AI has really begun to pervade popular culture. Our fascination with “thinking machines” is obvious, but has been wrongfully distorted by the science-fiction connotations seen in literature, film and television.


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