“You have to know the past to understand the present.” – Carl Sagan
A Brief History of Human-like Artificial Intelligence: Tale As Old As Time
For almost as long as humans have created civilisations, humans have thought about creating human-like beings. While the modern pursuits of human-like Artificial Intelligence, including the likes of human avatars and other virtual beings, are very different from the intentions of our ancestors, the purpose is the same. This article explores the history of human-like artificial intelligence.
Human-Like Artificial Intelligence, and indeed the field of Artificial Intelligence, began with myths and legends that ended up becoming reality. At its core, our pursuit of Human-Like Artificial Intelligence boils down to humanity’s innate need to understand what it means to be human. In doing so, these primitive creations of Human-Like Artificial Intelligence stretch the boundaries of what humankind can create – and raises the question of how far we should go with our creations.
Mention how long AI has been around to a hundred people and 99 of them will say that it is a new invention originating around mid-noughties. Mention how long virtual assistants and human-like AI have been around and all 100 would probably say that it started with the iPhone 4S.
Unfortunately for them, though, they would be wrong. The story of Artificial Intelligence. and the fields that comprise it, is a much older story of human necessity, ingenuity, and triumph over adversity.
All The Way Back To Aristotle
Fast forward to the 1633 with Rene Descartes describing “the body to be nothing but a statue or machine made of earth” – the body as a robot.
In modern times, during the Second World War, Alan Turing laid the foundations for modern Artificial Intelligence. He did it through machine learning technology, with his invention of the Bombe and Enigma codebreaking machines. In those days, those ideas were not termed as Artificial Intelligence.
The meaning of the term we now use to refer to AI was coined at the 1956 Dartmouth Workshop. Following that, the
explosionin computer adoption inventionof the Internet
- the exponential increase in computing capabilities…
…meant that, the 1980s, 90s and 00s, really brought Artificial Intelligence to the masses.
From Furby to Siri, AI became a part and parcel of our daily lives. Yet, the field of Artificial Intelligence is massive. The human spirit of creating in our image shows in our constant drive to create Human-Like Artificial Intelligence.
The Beginnings of Human-Like Artificial Intelligence
Mention Human-like Artificial Intelligence and the first thoughts that come to mind are the T-850 and shapeshifting T-1000 killer robots from The Terminator series or Sonny from I, Robot. Yet, as difficult as it is to believe, the origins of human-like AI have its origins in antiquity.
In the myths and legends of human history, three things are constant – death, taxes and Gods and Goddesses. Death was an inevitability, taxes were homage to the King but it is how our ancestors viewed their deities that gave rise to the first ideas on human-like Artificial Intelligence.
- The Greek Myths of Hephaestus and Ovid’s Metamorphoses incorporated ideas of artificial beings such as Talos, an automaton made to protect Crete from pirates and invaders.
- Hermes Trismegistus wrote about “sacred mechanical statues with sensus and spiritus” – beings with senses and spirit.
- In the first century, Heron of Alexander created mechanical man and automatons.
- And the Laws of Moses prohibited the use of automatons in religion.
Such fascination with human-like artifacts with Artificial Intelligence is not just limited to myths and legends or the ancient Greek States either.
- Ismail al-Jazari was said to have created an orchestra composed entirely of mechanical men in 1206.
- In the 1500s, Theophrastus von Hohenheim claimed to have created an artificial man out of sperm, magnetism and alchemy.
- In 1818, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, the story about the creation of an artificial man.
What ties all these events together is the intent shown by humanity through the ages, regardless of origin, of the need of humanity to understand what it means to be human. Through the ancient myths and legends, poems and stories, by giving the inanimate agency and human intellect, they challenged the very understanding of the values of humanity.
In doing so, these primitive creations of human-like Artificial Intelligence stretched the boundaries of what men could create and how much we should create. Primitive though early creations were, the questions that they raised and the fascination that humanity showed are themes which have continued influencing the debate till today.
The Progress Towards Modern Human-Like Artificial Intelligence
Humans are exceptionally complex beings. Unlike the creations of old, it is from the 1900s onwards that the progress towards human-like Artificial Intelligence, as we understand it today. Progress really took off with seminal research that properly defined what Artificial Intelligence and Human-Like AI were and the technology to make it a reality became available.
This explosion of knowledge began with a few steps – replicating the:
logicof humans decision-makingprocess of humans
- replicating the structure of the human mind
- exhibition of
behaviorequivalent to, or indistinguishable from humans
A Brief History of Human-like Artificial Intelligence: 4 Steps of Replication
The first step was to replicate the logic of humans into a form that machines could understand. This is a step that became reality with the publication of Principia Mathematica by Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead.
The next step was to replicate the decision-making ability of humans. This step was achieved by the creation of a machine that was truly autonomous. Known as El Ajedrecista, this machine was created solely with the goal of being able to play chess – the world’s first computer game.
The next step was to replicate the structure of the human mind, the brain. By replicating the human mind, progress could be made to combine the logic of humans with the ability to make decisions.
While this step cannot be claimed to have been completed, the foundation for artificial neural networks was laid with the publication of two works. They are “A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity” by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts and the “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior” by John von Neumann and Oskar Morganstern.
The final step was to find a way to ensure that any human-like Artificial Intelligence was able to pass as
The first part of this equation was proposed by Alan Turing in his seminal paper on “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. Commonly known as the Turing Test, it was a text-only test where a human evaluator would judge conversations not on the accuracy of answers but, how close it resembled answers a human would give. This test was first passed only in 2014 by a programme called Eugene Goostman.
The second part of the equation, however, has proved harder to overcome. In 1970, Masahiro Mori proposed a concept known as The Uncanny Valley. It describes an experience felt when something that acts almost like a human but there is something about it just isn’t quite right. While this feeling is most common in the physical world – for,
Past, Present, Future of Human-like Artificial Intelligence: Where Do We Go From Here?
Replication of the structure of the human mind and human-like behavior have not been accomplished yet. However, they have been the drivers behind much of the progress in Human-Like Artificial Intelligence over the last century.
Building upon the work of early pioneers and the imagination of humanity from antiquity, humans are getting ever closer to building the holy grail of human-like Artificial Intelligence – the creation of an AI that looks and sounds human.
Progress does not come instantaneously but through multiple avenues of inquiry. On our Connectome World website, five different categories will be explored. Namely, chatbots, virtual beings, virtual assistants, virtual human agents and humanoids.
From Aristotle’s inquest into syllogism to Principia Mathematica, the foundations for our inquiry into the logic of humanity was set. The Turing Test and the Uncanny Valley all served as guideposts to remind ourselves of our humanity.
The explorations into chatbots, virtual beings, virtual assistants, virtual human agents and humanoids show the various ways human imagination have created powerful tools not only to make our lives easier but also to fundamentally challenge the way we view machines. As we explore in-depth into the five categories of inquiries, the journey taken will call upon our history as Human Civilization and chart a path that helps us move forward in the present towards a bold future.
Truly, to understand the present, begin first by knowing the past.
Take the first step today! Read on to find out more about the 5 categories of human-like artificial intelligence.