The development of AIS is aimed at the creation of new technologies that will provide solutions to problems in the areas of electronics and heavy industries, agriculture, energy and resource conservation, transportation, human health, public safety, national security, and other fields.
Speaking at a conference in Buenos Aires in 1995, Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. (Vice President of the United States from 1993-2001 under President Bill Clinton) remarked, ‘These highways, or more accurately, networks of distributed intelligence, will allow us to share information, to connect, and to communicate as a global community. From these connections we will derive robust and sustainable economic progress, strong democracies, better solutions to global and local environmental challenges, improved health care, and ultimately, a greater sense of shared stewardship of our small planet’.
From a historical point of view, AIS appeared in the last century as result of the evolution of man-machine systems, in which the functions of man and machine are interrelated for the operation of these systems. For example, a craftsman operating a working lathe, a driver and his running car, and the workers and machines at a power station all form man-machine systems. In a man-machine system, the human operator supplies the goal, the direction, and the integration. The machine executes everything according to the given directions, and provides feedback.
In the process of man-machine systems evolution, the role of man has decreased relative to the role of the machines he operates. To execute routine functions, machines have been increasingly equipped with control subsystems, and the resulting man-machines systems were referred to as “semi-automatic” systems. Progressively, many semi-automatic systems have transformed into automatic systems.
Thanks to computer systems, a fantastic change has taken place in many areas of technology during the last few decades. Previous machines had the role of executing tasks given to them by human beings. Today, these machines are equipped with very advanced programmable control systems and various kinds of sensory devices, enabling them to execute many human tasks, including creative problem solving. Meanwhile, engineers and scientists working on bionic technologies are getting closer to creating machines that can perform some human functions for people with disabilities. As a result, the preconditions for the birth of artificial intelligence appeared.
Ray Kurzweil, in his very interesting book, The Singularity is Real, found an appropriate metaphor to describe the process of computer systems dissemination. He commented, ‘Advancing computer performance is like water slowly flooding the landscape. A half century ago, it began to drown the lowlands, driving out human calculators and record clerks, but leaving most of us dry. Now the flood has reached the foothills, and our outposts there are contemplating retreat. We feel safe on our peaks, but at the present rate, those too will be submerged within another half century.’
It is fair statement regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well. In the past few years, some AI programs and systems have successfully copied selected human brain functions, and extended human cognitive and decision-making abilities. As a result, some machines in existence now can execute the knowledge-based functions of a human operator, but with better quality. The inventor of the Lisp programming language, John McCarthy, who also coined term “Artificial Intelligence” in his proposal for the 1956 Dartmouth Conference, defines AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.”