History of Artificial Intelligence

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.

Some Dartmouth conference attendees


The Dartmouth College Artificial Intelligence Conference: The Next Fifty Years


Article about the Dartmouth conference in 1956.

Turing on thinking machines

Alan Turing

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".


Alan Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence


Turing's paper on thinking machines.

Noam Chomsky's view

Noam Chomsky

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.


Noam Chomsky - Can Machines Think?


Video of Chomsky discussing Turing's paper.

Noam Chomsky: Language and Nature


Article by Chomsky on language.

Noam Chomsky - Mind, Consciousness, and A.I.


Short video of Noam Chomsky discussing Artificial Intelligence.

Chinese room argument

John Searle

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.

Chinese Room Argument


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Turing Test


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on The Turing Test.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Chinese Room Argument


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on The Chinese Room Argument.


Double slit experiment

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.

Neurological basis for thinking


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.


MIT Infinite History: Marvin Minsky interview


Interview with Marvin Minsky where he discusses learning about the McCulloch-Pitts model.

The Mind Project: McCulloch-Pitts Neurons


Article about McCulloch-Pitts model of the neuron.