A Short History of Artificial Intelligence

February 16, 2021 • Devin Partida


AI is one of the most revolutionary technologies the world has seen. You’ve heard of what it’s doing now or what it can do tomorrow, but what about its past? You may be less familiar with the history of artificial intelligence.

Given how AI is influencing almost everything nowadays, it can be helpful to understand its origins. The history of AI is a relatively short one, but it still might be an older technology than you realize. Seeing how far it’s come in such a short time can also help you appreciate how impressive AI is.

With that in mind, here’s a brief rundown of the history of artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence’s Early History

You’d have a difficult time narrowing down the origins of the concept of machines thinking for themselves. Plenty of literature about the subject existed by the turn of the 20th century. Most people point to the 1950s as the beginning of AI’s history, though.

In 1950, Alan Turing proposed a test to see if machines could think, now called the Turing Test. Six years later, a conference at Dartmouth College coined the term artificial intelligence and kicked off the field. In the years following, AI research exploded as scientists and governments alike grew optimistic about the technology.

During the 1950s and 60s, scientists laid the groundwork for central AI concepts like machine learning and neural networks. Despite all the research and funding, calling the actual technology that emerged in this time AI would be a stretch. Enthusiasm for the field began to fade towards the onset of the 1970s.

AI In Action

Artificial intelligence began to gain steam again in the 80s as Japanese researchers began to make some breakthroughs. In 1980, Waseda University unveiled Wabot 2, a robot that could read music and play the keyboard. A year later, the Japanese government started investing millions of dollars in AI research.

Artificial intelligence history saw a turning point in the late 90s when IBM’s Deep Blue beat the world’s reigning chess champion. Honda’s famous intelligent robot ASIMO came out three years late in 2000. Newsworthy events like these led to a surge in public interest in AI.

In 2009, Google started developing driverless cars, now one of the most talked-about AI applications. A few years later, IBM made history again when their computer, Watson, won a game of Jeopardy! against two former champions. As the 2010s continued, AI advanced at an exponential rate.

Modern Artificial Intelligence

AI today is a far cry from what it was in the 20th century. Millions of people around the world use AI assistants like Siri and Alex regularly. These technologies seem mundane, but their language and analytic skills are far superior to most AI just ten years ago.

Cars with limited self-driving functions are already on the road. A whopping 75% of major banks use AI for things like customer service and fraud detection. If you could call any time period “the age of AI,” it would be now.

AI’s History Has Just Begun

Artificial intelligence hasn’t been around for all that long, so it still has a ways to go. Where AI will go from here is challenging to say with much certainty. Just look at how different it is now than it was thirty years ago.

AI’s history is short, but it’s significant. This technology has changed the world, and it looks like it won’t stop anytime soon.