In this brief history, the beginnings of artiﬁcial in-telligence are traced to philosophy, fiction, andimagination. Early inventions in electronics, engi-neering, and many other disciplines have influ-enced AI. Some early milestones include work inproblems solving which included basic work inlearning, knowledge representation, and inferenceas well as demonstration programs in language un-derstanding, translation, theorem proving, associa-tive memory, and knowledge-based systems. Thearticle ends with a brief examination of inﬂuentialorganizations and current issues facing the ﬁeld.
he history of AI is a history of fantasies,possibilities, demonstrations, andpromise. Ever since Homer wrote of me-chanical “tripods” waiting on the gods at din-ner, imagined mechanical assistants have beena part of our culture. However, only in the lasthalf century have we, the AI community, beenable to build experimental machines that testhypotheses about the mechanisms of thoughtand intelligent behavior and thereby demon-strate mechanisms that formerly existed onlyas theoretical possibilities. Although achievingfull-blown artiﬁcial intelligence remains in thefuture, we must maintain the ongoing dialogueabout the implications of realizing thepromise.
Philosophers have floated the possibility of intelligent machines as a literary device to helpus define what it means to be human. RenéDescartes, for example, seems to have beenmore interested in “mechanical man” as ametaphor than as a possibility. Gottfried Wil-helm Leibniz, on the other hand, seemed to seethe possibility of mechanical reasoning devicesusing rules of logic to settle disputes. Both Leib-niz and Blaise Pascal designed calculating ma-chines that mechanized arithmetic, which hadhitherto been the province of learned mencalled “calculators,” but they never made theclaim that the devices could think. EtienneBonnot, Abbé de Condillac used the metaphorof a statue into whose head we poured nuggetsof knowledge, asking at what point it wouldknow enough to appear to be intelligent.Science ﬁction writers have used the possibil-ity of intelligent machines to advance the fan-tasy of intelligent nonhumans, as well as tomake us think about our own human charac-teristics. Jules Verne in the nineteenth centuryand Isaac Asimov in the twentieth are the bestknown, but there have been many others in-cluding L. Frank Baum, who gave us the
Wiz-ard of Oz.
Baum wrote of several robots and de-scribed the mechanical man Tiktok in 1907, forexample, as an “Extra-Responsive, Thought-Creating, Perfect-Talking Mechanical Man …Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything butLive.” These writers have inspired many AI re-searchers.Robots, and artiﬁcially created beings such asthe Golem in Jewish tradition and MaryShelly’s Frankenstein, have always captured thepublic’s imagination, in part by playing on ourfears. Mechanical animals and dolls—includinga mechanical trumpeter for which Ludwig vanBeethoven wrote a fanfare—were actually builtfrom clockwork mechanisms in the seven-teenth century. Although they were obviouslylimited in their performance and were intend-ed more as curiosities than as demonstrationsof thinking, they provided some initial credi-bility to mechanistic views of behavior and tothe idea that such behavior need not be feared.As the industrial world became more mecha-nized, machinery became more sophisticated
25th Anniversary Issue
WINTER 2005 53
Copyright © 2005, American Association for Artiﬁcial Intelligence. All rights reserved. 0738-4602-2005 / $2.00
A (Very)Brief History of Artiﬁcial Intelligence
Bruce G. Buchanan