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THE REAL HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL BEINGS

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now-famous Turing test as a meaningful measure of machine intelli- gence.Writing in 1950,Turing stated his belief that

in about fifty years time it will be possible to programme computers . . . so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of question- ing. . . . I believe that at the end of the century . . . general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of ma- chines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.

Turing estimated that a computer with a storage capacity of about 1 billion bits could pass his test. In a way, he was a twentieth-century Babbage, because that requirement was exponentially beyond the technology of the time, as were other ideas of his, for instance, that an important part of machine intelligence would arise by enabling the computer to learn.

Turing was not alone in believing that machine intelligence could be realized, or at least was worth investigating. Six years after his pa- per, the first study group on the subject was convened at Dartmouth College by the mathematician John McCarthy, who coined the term artificial intelligence.Other attendees included Claude Shannon and Marvin Minsky, who was to become a highly influential pioneer in the field at MIT.The conference manifesto read

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 pre- cisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.

The strategy that emerged was the development of programmed simu- lations of important chunks of intelligent human behavior. Language skills are one extremely significant part of our thought processes, and early AI researchers worked on machine translation of language, as well as natural language processing; that is, communicating with com- puters in ordinary language, not special programming languages. An- other chunk is the mix of logical thought and strategic planning exemplified in game playing, chess being a prime example. A third is the deductive thinking used in mathematical and geometric proofs. And finally there is visual cognition, the ability to see and give mean- ing to a sceneamong the most challenging of higher brain func- tions.

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