In 1956, a conference was held at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The proposal was as follows.
We propose that a 2 month, 10 man study of artificial intelligence be carried out during the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture 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. An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves.
The proposal was made by John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester and Claude Shannon. It is credited as the first use of the term artificial intelligence.
Article about the Dartmouth conference in 1956.
The original question, “Can machines think?” I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. - Alan Turing
Artificial intelligence has been a hot topic for about a century, going in and out of fashion.
Alan Turing wrote a paper in 1950, formally considering the problem of having a machine "think" in the context of computers.
In it, he suggests "The Imitation Game".
Turing's paper on thinking machines.
The revered Noam Chomsky feels that Turing's insight into the problem has been largely forgotten or sidestepped.
That sentence has somehow been ignored...to ask whether machines think is basically asking what kind of metaphor you like...it's like asking do submarines swim? - Noam Chomsky
There is no one definition of artificial intelligence that satisfies everyone, and discussions on artificial intelligence often end in philosophical observations and semantic arguments.
Video of Chomsky discussing Turing's paper.
Article by Chomsky on language.
Short video of Noam Chomsky discussing Artificial Intelligence.
The Turing test was proposed by Turing in his paper above, largely as a thought experiment.
However, the Loebner prize is awarded yearly in a competition based on it.
The usefulness of the test is hotly debated to this day, as by Chomsky above.
The debate often centres around the definition of the word "think".
The Chinese Room Argument, first given by John Searle, is a good introduction to the debate.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on The Turing Test.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on The Chinese Room Argument.
It's not hard to slip into a debate about the nature of reality in this discussion.
You can read up on the double slit experiment for more confusion about that.
Many modern machine learning techniques focus on what a bran does at the neurological level.
These are largely based on work by McCulloch and Pitts, albeit with some corrections.
Interview with Marvin Minsky where he discusses learning about the McCulloch-Pitts model.
Article about McCulloch-Pitts model of the neuron.
Video with talks from Chomsky, Minsky, Pinker and others.
Zack Bloom on the history on email.