Machines That Think is organized in a straightforward way; three major sections account for the past, present, and future of AI. This arrangement highlights the fact that computers themselves are relatively recent inventions, and they have rapidly progressed from very fast adding machines to sophisticated data manipulators.

This creates a sense of urgency for the reader, a feeling that those who ignore the advance of AI will do so at their own peril. Humans have been thinking about thinking machines for centuries.

Ever since Aristotle founded the concept of formal logic in the third century, people have sought ways to make thought and reasoning a predictable, mechanized process. Visionary scientist Alan Touring prophesied in 1950 that machines would one day think, and this was before there were even computers to speak of.

In 1987 Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, warned ominously that one day humans would be to robots as dogs are to humans now. The development of computers accelerated with cryptography and atomic bomb calculations during the Second World War.

In the post war era, it was clear that computers were powerful tools, and that they might have the potential to do more than replace a warehouse full of clerks pounding away on adding machines. The Dartmouth Summer Research Project in 1956 was one of the first to formally articulate the idea of describing human intelligence in such a way that it could be simulated in a computer. Read more from…

thumbnail courtesy of