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Artificial Intelligence Research

Artificial intelligence began as an experimental field in the 1950s with such pioneers as Allen Newell and Herbert Simon, who founded the first artificial intelligence laboratory at Carnegie-Mellon University, and McCarthy and Marvin Minsky, who founded the MIT AI Lab in 1959. They all attended the aforementioned Dartmouth College summer AI conference in 1956, which was organized by McCarthy, Minsky, Nathan Rochester of IBM and Claude Shannon.

Historically, there are two broad styles of AI research - the "neats" and "scruffies". "Neat", classical or symbolic AI research, in general, involves symbolic manipulation of abstract concepts, and is the methodology used in most expert systems. Parallel to this are the "scruffy", or "connectionist", approaches, of which neural networks are the best-known example, which try to "evolve" intelligence through building systems and then improving them through some automatic process rather than systematically designing something to complete the task. Both approaches appeared very early in AI history. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s scruffy approaches were pushed to the background, but interest was regained in the 1980s when the limitations of the "neat" approaches of the time became clearer. However, it has become clear that contemporary methods using both broad approaches have severe limitations.

Artificial intelligence research was very heavily funded in the 1980s by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the United States and by the Fifth Generation Project in Japan. The failure of the work funded at the time to produce immediate results, despite the grandiose promises of some AI practitioners, led to correspondingly large cutbacks in funding by government agencies in the late 1980s, leading to a general downturn in activity in the field known as AI winter. Over the following decade, many AI researchers moved into related areas with more modest goals such as machine learning, robotics, and computer vision, though research in pure AI continued at reduced levels.

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