Ai: The Tumultuous History Of The Search For Artificial Intelligence

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9780465029976: Ai: The Tumultuous History Of The Search For Artificial Intelligence

In the summer of 1956, ten young scientists, some barely out of their doctoral studies, sat down to consider the astounding proposition that "every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can, in principle, be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it." Armed with their own enthusiasm, the excitement of the idea itself, and an infusion of government money, they predicted that the whole range of human intelligence would be programmable within their own lifetimes. Nearly half a century later, the field has grown exponentially - with mixed results.
Based on extensive interviews with the major players, including Marvin Minsky, Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, Raj Reddy, and Patrick Winston, AI is part intellectual history, part business history. Rich with anecdotes about the founders and leaders of the field and their celebrated feuds and intellectual gamesmanship, the book chronicles their dramatic successes ("expert" systems, robotics, "smart" technologies, and even world-class chess playing) and their equally dramatic failures (language processing, learning), and shows how early in the next century researchers hope to teach their computers "common sense," the next necessary breakthrough.
The story of AI is an exhilarating saga of new programs and new hardware, yet it is also the story of a slow but steady acquisition of knowledge about how humans think. Daniel Crevier traces AI's emergence from the fields of philosophy, mathematics, psychology, and neurology, chronicling the development of primitive computing devices and ultimately the creation of a brave new world described chiefly in acronyms: SOAR, Cyc, EURISKO, among others.
The quest for artificial intelligence raises profound issues about the nature of mind and soul as well as fascinating philosophical questions. Will we humans one day have to share our world with entities smarter than ourselves? And can we rely on these creations to make vital decisions for us - business, scientific, legal, and even moral choices? Crevier discusses these questions with the leaders of AI, and they offer some surprising answers.

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Review:

Perhaps no venture in the history of computing has produced so many high hopes and attracted so many brilliant minds, yet produced so many daunting failures as the quest for artificial intelligence. Daniel Crevier' fascinating and deeply researched history of the AI traces the search for machine intelligence from the optimistic first experiments of the mid 1950s, through the classic projects of the next two decades, on to the mixed fortunes of the commercial AI ventures that began in the 1980s. In addition to being a history of an intellectual field, it's a portrait gallery of the brilliant and often eccentric people who built it. Crevier's discussion does not demand a programming background, yet takes the reader deeply into theoretical issues that make us ponder the phenomenon of human intelligence.

From Library Journal:

"Tumultuous" may not be the right adjective to describe the history of artificial intelligence. Certainly, it has promised great things that often failed to materialize, so that the general effect has been more disappointment than tumult. Even the few success stories, like Mycin and Xcon, have their problems. Xcon, the expert configurator used by Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), eventually began to crumble from its own weight. The cost to keep knowledge bases current proved to be far higher than anticipated. One joke at DEC is that Xcon replaced 75 systems people, but the expert system requires 150 to maintain it. Crevier traces the history, knows the people, and understands the technology. He concludes with a question: Are we creating the next species of intelligent life on Earth? He sees the answer as a major concern of the 21st century. For computer and technology collections.
- Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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