Trying to write a brief history of artificial intelligence

Notes from Sunday, September 30, 2018

My big plan for the month of October is pretty simple. It all centers around a simple enough proposition. That proposition includes just one question. As a question it seems to be pretty decent on the surface. My question remains, “Would it be possible to explain the current state of artificial intelligence in 30 days by writing 500 words a day?” Sure some of the days will probably go a little bit over the 500 word guidepost, but that is really just an arbitrary setting in the march toward explaining things. Overall this exercise will help generate a roughly 15,000 word essay explaining the current state of artificial intelligence. Tomorrow should kick start things with an introductory essay on the subject and I will probably try to sketch out the first few topics.

Notes from Monday, October 1, 2018

Programming a computer opens the door to executing some definable and repeatable tasks. Programs are all about doing something. Some of that something often happens within a set of rules. A of programs have been built to do something based on a set of instructions. People have been building video games that help execute a set of rules within a definable and generally repeatable user experience for years. Any brief history of artificial intelligence could start with and end with understanding computer games. Figuring out how to develop a program that can compete and ultimately execute strategy is the basic framework I have used to describe artificial intelligence. For me it is about figuring out if a program can figure out what is next. Being able to make a move or execute a strategy within computer games has gotten more complex. Games in general have gotten a lot more complex. Self generating worlds full of highly complex storylines are a far cry from playing tic-tac-toe, checkers, chess, or go. We have entered a new age within the development of artificial intelligence. Computer programs can now be written that capable of playing through old Nintendo games.

For me any history of artificial intelligence is about what is possible. It could be something like the OpenAI bot beating competition level human Dota 2 players. Getting to a point where a piece of software could engage in more than simply completing a set of definable and repeatable tasks took some time. Building out the frameworks to accomplish that type of coding took some time to flush out and develop. Right now we are really watching the turning point in people executing ideas related to artificial intelligence. We really did initially see a world full of artificial intelligence drawn out in works of science fiction. That went on for some time until people figured out how write computer code that wrote computer code. For me that is the key element of the turning point we are seeing today. Getting to a point where a program can iterate or create something new based on the original code will push things forward very rapidly.

That start to writing a brief history of artificial intelligence was more or less a false start. I’m going to need to try again tomorrow and hopeful do a better job. Maybe the basic premise of using video games to tell the story of artificial intelligence was flawed. Digging into milestones and technical achievements might be a better way, but it just does not focus on and tell a cohesive story. I think somewhere within the history of video games is a story that also could be a brief history of artificial intelligence.

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