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Artificial intelligence

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is making a computer that thinks like a human (or eventually better) - to be able to learn and to have new ideas. AI does not mean to make a computer smart just by knowing more information. It is to build a machine that can act as if it were smart and seem more human. This is called the Turing test.

Computers are very good at following exact orders, and handling very specific things, but not good at dealing with new things they haven't seen before. For example, a common computer program can turn a report of names and hours worked into paychecks for the workers at a company. But the same program could not answer questions from an employee about why the company will not pay for nap time. That is the difference between a program and AI.

In some cases, AI can be simulated (imitated), at least in certain areas. With enough effort, programmers can make a big program that knows about many things and can answer questions about those things. Programs that can beat humans at chess have been around for a long time, but that's not true AI, it's just a very good program on how to follow strategy to win at chess. If simulated AI is asked about something it does not know, it cannot come up with a good answer based on other things it already knows. For example, it might know the weather forecast, and about how plants grow, but if asked if the grass will be green next week, simulated AI will not ever realize it needs to think about what the temperature and rainfall will be for the next week. A true AI program will be able to understand how to answer new questions like that.

To work in a world where answers are not yes or no but also maybe, likely and not likely, researchers have worked on fuzzy logic and neural networks.

Sometimes, AI is meant to be a simulation of human intelligence, often as a part of research in the area of psychology. In this case, it is the study of mental processes through the use of computer models. The question of what it means to be self-aware or having consciousness (knowing that you have a physical body, and how you think about your self) is part of it. If a computer sees itself in a mirror, would it realize what it sees? Can a computer be scared of death?


The name came from the topic of a 1956 Dartmouth College Conference by John McCarthy.[1]

The idea of thinking machines had been around before this. In 1950 Alan Turing wrote a paper called "Computing Machinery and Intelligence". He started with the question "Can machines think?". Since "thinking" is hard to define, Turing went to another question instead - "Can machines trick a human into thinking they are talking to another human (instead of to a machine)?".[2]

Even earlier, thinking machines and artificial beings appear in Greek myths, such as Talos of Crete, the golden robots of Hephaestus and Pygmalion's Galatea.[3] Human likenesses believed to have intelligence were built in every major civilization: animated statues were worshipped in Egypt and Greece[4]

The computer company IBM built a supercomputer called Watson that could answer questions on the Jeopardy! quiz show on television. These are questions about anything that sometimes have trick answers and hidden clues. In January of 2011, two humans that had been champions on the show played against Watson. Watson easily won.[5]

Related pages


  1. Although there is some controversy on this (see Crevier 1993, p. 50), McCarthy said "I came up with the term" in a c|net interview. (See Getting Machines to Think Like Us.)
  2. "The Turing Test, 1950". Andrew Hodges. Retrieved 6 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. AI in Myth:
  4. Sacred statues as artificial intelligence: These were the first machines to be believed to have true intelligence and consciousness. Hermes Trismegistus expressed the common belief that with these statues, craftsman had reproduced "the true nature of the gods", their sensus and spiritus. McCorduck makes the connection between sacred automatons (robots) and Mosaic law (developed around the same time), which expressly forbids the worship of robots (McCorduck 2004, pp. 6–9)
  5. "Passing the Turing Test". PC Magazine. Retrieved 6 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>