Artificial Intelligence

August 16, 1985

Report Outline
State of the Art Today
Development of Research
The Japanese Challenge
Special Focus

State of the Art Today

Moving to New Level of Computerization

About a thousand scientists are at work in laboratories across the country on a project that has been compared to the invention of the printing press, the development of the steam engine, the emergence of human speech, the control of fire and the agricultural revolution. The potentially monumental project is a multifaceted effort to build high-technology computers that are programmed with artificial intelligence—computers that can understand and emulate human speech, perform physical functions and make reasoned judgments.

We are at least many decades away from having a computerized society in which thinking machines will be in routine use in virtually everyone's home and office, doing everything from cleaning the house to forming instantaneous strategies for waging nuclear war. Nevertheless, artificial intelligence research has been going on since the 1950s, and in recent years some computers have been equipped with modest powers that suggest reasoning. These are “expert systems” that have been perfected and put to use in business and industry. “We're a long way from [having] talking robots that walk around like Artoo Detoo [in the 1977 movie Star Wars],” said Lou Robinson, editor of the newsletter Artificial Intelligence Report. “But AI is coming out of the laboratory and being put into commercial uses.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems differ from conventional computer systems conceptually and functionally. Present-day computers are designed to do one basic job: process data. To do so, they add, subtract, divide, multiply, move and compare numerical information in a serial fashion. In order to complete these tasks conventional computers must be programmed with step-by-step instructions. AI systems can process information much more rapidly than conventional computers and can comprehend new types of programming languages that use symbols rather than numbers.

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