Saturday, January 28, 2012

The origins of Artificial Intelligence

The origins of Artificial Intelligence (AI) usually begin with the theories proclaimed by ancient Greek philosophers and scientists. Although, arguments can be made that the first attempts were made thousands of years before, at the dawn of humanity. Long before the invention of writing, humans appear to have developed rudimentary techniques and tools for counting and representing information. Our view is that these first tools and some artworks are the real and oldest roots of AI. There are many forms of such Paleolithic artifacts founded all over the world. Some of them have been used for counting animals or objects, some others for predicting the future in earlier forms of religious rites.
Among many examples, carved notches made on bones dating from the upper Paleolithic period have been interpreted as a rudimentary means of counting the days for each phase of the moon. Small stone or bone female figurines, such as the well-known Venus, and some paintings on the walls of caves can be also viewed as the earliest attempts to create artificial creatures.
Early civilizations developed a variety of ways of representing and manipulating numerical quantities and knowledge in addition to the use of written symbols. For example, there is an artifact in the Yale collection showing that the Babylonians had a method, or in other words an algorithm, for calculating the square root of some numbers as early as 2,000 years BC.
Another particularly interesting example is the Edwin Smith Papyrus. It is an ancient Egyptian medical text on surgical trauma dated 1,600 BC. It contains 48 surgical observations of head wounds stated in the form of symptom-diagnosis-treatment-prognosis combinations. This rational approach to medicine is close to the basic principle of rule-based expert systems.

It can be argued that all these artifacts were only memory-helping devices rather than abstract or mechanical machines. Even the Abacus, which appeared in Asia Minor around 2,500 years ago and is still in use today, is not a real calculating machine. However, from our point of view, these tools for representing and storing information were the necessary first steps towards AI. (From "complex artificial intelligence" - Work in progress.)

No comments: