A.I. Has Grown Up and Left Home


The history of Artificial Intelligence,” said my computer science professor on the first day of class, “is a history of failure.” This harsh judgment summed up 50 years of trying to get computers to think. Sure, they could crunch numbers a billion times faster in 2000 than they could in 1950, but computer science pioneer and genius Alan Turing had predicted in 1950 that machines would be thinking by 2000: Capable of human levels of creativity, problem solving, personality, and adaptive behavior. Maybe they wouldn’t be conscious (that question is for the philosophers), but they would have personalities and motivations, like Robbie the Robot or HAL 9000. Not only did we miss the deadline, but we don’t even seem to be close. And this is a double failure, because it also means that we don’t understand what thinking really is.