AI: The Tumultuous History of the Search for Artificial Intelligence. Daniel Crevier. Basic Books.

AI: The Tumultuous History of the Search for Artificial Intelligence Book Cover AI: The Tumultuous History of the Search for Artificial Intelligence
Daniel Crevier
Basic Books
May 18, 1993

In the summer of 1956, ten young scientists, some barely out of their doctoral studies, sat down to consider the astounding proposition that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can, in principle, be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” Armed with their own enthusiasm, the excitement of the idea itself, and an infusion of government money, they predicted that the whole range of human intelligence would be programmable within their own lifetimes. Nearly half a century later, the field has grown exponentially – with mixed results.

Based on extensive interviews with the major players, including Marvin Minsky, Herbert Simon, Alan Newell, Raj Reddy, and Patrick Winston, AI is part intellectual history, part business history. Rich with anecdotes about the founders and leaders of the field and their celebrated feuds and intellectual gamesmanship, the book chronicles their dramatic successes (“expert” systems, robotics, “smart” technologies, and even world-class chess playing) and their equally dramatic failures (language processing, learning), and shows how early in the next century researchers hope to teach their computers “common sense,” the next necessary breakthrough.

The story of AI is an exhilarating saga of new programs and new hardware, yet it is also the story of a slow but steady acquisition of knowledge about how humans think. Daniel Crevier traces AI’s emergence from the fields of philosophy, mathematics, psychology, and neurology, chronicling the development of primitive computing devices and ultimately the creation of a brave new world described chiefly in acronyms: SOAR, Cyc, EURISKO, among others.

The quest for artificial intelligence raises profound questions about the nature of mind and soul as well as fascinating philosophical questions. Will we humans one day have to share our world with entities smarter than ourselves? And can we rely on these creations to make vital decisions for us – business, scientific, legal, and even moral choices? Crevier discusses these questions with the leaders of AI, and they offer some surprising answers.

Daniel Crevier holds a Ph.D. from MIT and teaches electrical engineering at ETS, the University of Québec’s School of Engineering. He previously taught at McGill University, and is the founder of Coreco, Inc., a firm that uses artificial intelligence to let computers see through TV cameras.