The Field of Artificial Intelligence

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The Field of Artificial Intelligence: Biological 'Thinking' Machines Attempting to Create Mechanical 'Thinking' Machines Artificial intelligence, abbreviated AI, is a combination of the fields of science, physiology, and philosophy. The main purpose of AI is to create machines that can think. But in order to determine if a machine is thinking, ". . . it is necessary to define intelligence. To what degree does intelligence consist of, for example, solving complex problems, or making generalizations and relationships?" ("Introduction" Internet). Answers needed to be found for these questions before anyone could begin work on a self reliant learning machine. So after years of painstaking research and perseverance, Scientist were able to initiate AI and it has come a long way since. Before electronics, AI was only theory, but it was one component that pushed the commencement of the 'electronic birth' in 19431. This 'birth' gave scientists the tools necessary to physically invent an intelligent machine. The original dozen scientists quickly grew to thousands of engineers and specialists("Introduction" Internet). When started in 1956, AI was an ". . . idealism . . . that was going to be a powerful force for the good of humanity. But that idealism is being squeezed out, instead, by hypocrites who crave money, status, and power" ("Artificial Intelligence, and Robot" Internet). This is all too prevalent today. Sadly, ". . . 'experts' have turned AI into a battle for territory, obstructing progress, obscuring their trivialities behind impressive-sounding jargon, and turning this fundamental, urgently important domain of science into an exclusive club, with artificially limited 'union cards'. . ." ("Artificial Intelligence, and Robot", Internet). Although scientists with these 'union cards' were able to keep AI research an 'exclusive club', we must come to understand that artificial intelligence has been in development for many years and is integral to the computer field, has practical uses and could prove to be an advantage to society. Most importantly, functional AI is very probable in the future. Although the computer was around for the technological movement, the link between computers and human intelligence wasn't made until approximately 1950. Scientists believe that this first realization should be credited to Norbert Wiener. He was one of the first Americans to make observations on the principle of feedback theory. To understand this theory, it is easiest to use the example of the normal household thermostat: "It controls the temperature of an environment by gathering the actual temperature of the house, comparing it to the desired temperature, and then responding by turning the heat up or down"("Beginnings" Internet). The most important research in feedback loops was that Wiener theorized ". . . that all intelligent behavior was the result of feedback mechanisms. And these mechanisms could possibly be simulated by machines"(qtd. in "Beginnings" Internet). This discovery by Wiener would greatly influence the thinking behind AI in the future. Later, in 1955, two scientist, Newell and Simon, developed The Logic Theorist. This program was considered the first true AI program. It is agreed that ". . . the impact that The Logic Theorist made on both the public and the field of AI has made it a crucial stepping stone in developing the AI field"("Beginnings" Internet). With these new technologies and ideas, the AI field greatly lacked organization. This was corrected by John McCarthy, regarded as the father of AI, he ". . . organized a conference to draw the talent and expertise of others interested in machine intelligence for a month of brainstorming"("Beginnings" Internet). This conference was deemed "The Darmouth summer research project on artificial intelligence"("Beginnings" Internet). From that point, the name artificial intelligence stuck to any research to do with the creation of 'thinking' machines. Now that they had a name for their research, scientists needed to find some reasons for continuing it. The scientists began seeking realistic goals that AI could accomplish. Patrick Henry Winston, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT), stated that "The central goals of artificial intelligence are to make computers more useful and to understand the principles which make intelligence possible"(1). Nevertheless, one must not overlook the fact that with AI ". . . a computer system can be trained quickly, has virtually no operating cost, never forgets what it learns, never calls in sick, retires, or goes on vacation"("Scope" Internet). But still the question remained on how to use it. For example, at one time, ". . . people once considered an intelligent computer as a possible substitute for human control over nuclear weapons, citing that a computer could respond more quickly to a threat" ("Scope" Internet). However, before jumping face first into AI, the military found the need to integrate AI systems slowly into tools and weapons. It first put AI software to the test during Desert Storm. AI-based technologies were used in missile systems (utilizing the feedback ideals of AI for accurate radar to targeting), heads-up-displays in cockpits2, and other advancements. In addition to military applications, AI has also moved into the common home. Computer programs for ". . . the Apple Macintosh and IBM compatible computer, where such programs as voice and character recognition have become recently available"("AI Put To The Test" Internet). Through AI, simple things like steady picture camcorders have come to the general public. With greater demand and a larger market for AI-related technology, new advancements are becoming available more rapidly than ever thought possible. So if AI is already in use, why continue researching it? Winston, the professor from MIT, believes that in the near future, ". . . we must use our energy, food, and human resources wisely and we must have high quality help from computers to do it." As the world grows larger and more complex than imagined, "the computers must help not only by doing ordinary computing, but also by doing computing that exhibits intelligence"(Winston 2). Winston also proposes many recommendations of what he thinks AI could or should be doing soon. He states that in farming, computers should help control pests, prune trees, and enable selective harvesting of mixed crops. In manufacturing, computers should be doing assembly and inspection jobs of all kinds. In hospitals, computers should help with diagnosis, monitor patients, manage treatment, and make beds. Winston believes that computers with intelligence would be an invaluable resource to humans(2). Despite the realization that people are constantly finding new uses for AI, it would be a newcomer's mistake to forget that it may also hold dangers to the traditional acceptance of what a machine can do. We have learned from experience that people don't always welcome new methods or materials as soon as they are available. This holds true for AI, but scientists believe this is the wrong thing to do. First of all, . . . we should be prepared for a change. Our conservative ways may standing the way of progress. AI is a new step that is very helpful to society. Machines can do jobs that require detailed instructions followed and mental alertness. AI with its learning capabilities can accomplish those tasks but only if the worlds [sic] conservatives are ready to change and allow this to be a possibility. It makes us think of how early man finally accepted the wheel as a good invention, not something taking away from its heritage or tradition("What We Can Do" Internet). Also, in order to be ready to welcome the advantages accompanying AI, and to prevent its misuse, . . . we must be prepared to learn about the capabilities of it. The more we get out of the machines the less work is required by us. In turn less injuries and stress to human beings. Human beings are a species that learn by trying, and we must be prepared to give AI a chance seeing AI as a blessing, not an inhibition("What We Can Do" Internet). Finally, people must prepare for the worst with AI. As we do know from history, nothing starts out perfectly. So ". . . something as revolutionary as AI is sure to have many kinks to work out"("What We Can Do" Internet). But people always seem to have the fear that ". . . if AI is learning based, will machines learn that being rich and successful is a good thing, then wage war against economic powers and famous people?"("What We Can Do " Internet). These are the risks we have to be prepared for and must be willing to take in order to advance technology. However, although the fear of the machines is there, we must remember that ". . . their capabilities are infinite"("What We Can Do" Internet). To control AI, we need to bear in mind that AI machines are like children that need to be taught to be kind, well mannered, and intelligent. If they are to make important decisions, they should be wise. We as citizens need to make sure AI programmers are keeping things on the level("What We Can Do" Internet). We are responsible for making sure they do their job correctly, so that ". . . no future accidents occur"("What We Can Do" Internet). So now the warnings and the base for AI development are both there. The current projects in AI are appearing to function with undeniable success. Consequently the future of AI is limitless, so people think. But one fundamental question about AI remains unanswered: Is it possible for computers - simple machines - to actually think in the same manner as does the human mind? As Marc Leepson points out in the Editorial Research Report "Artificial Intelligence", There is no doubt that computers can be programmed to make inferences. But it has yet to be proven that an inanimate object can be imbued with human knowledge and the ability to learn. A computer, after all, has no intrinsic intelligence. It is a machine that manipulates symbols that it recognizes, but does not understand the meaning of the symbols it processes (634). Therefore, although being able to crunch millions of numbers or symbols per second, computers still cannot emulate the many and widely varied processes of the human mind. According to Tom Alexander, author of many published AI reference materials, such processes include ". . . the rich associations, metaphors and generalizations that language invokes in people and that constitute the essence of meaning and thought . . . which consists less of logic and recognizing symbols than it does of mental images and analogies -- things no one has been able to define in terms computers can grasp"(106). Today's programs only create an ". . . empty mimicry. .

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