A Piece of AI History

Published: Aug 20, 2023

Yesterday I went to check out our local library’s annual used book sale, and one of the books I picked up is titled Essentials of Artificial Intelligence by Matt Ginsberg. I thought it was a neat find because the book was written in 1992, and this particular edition was published in 1993 so it provides some interesting insight into what was going on in the early days of AI research.

I’ve written a few posts recently that skew toward some of the more negative aspects of AI, but I don’t want to give the impression that I’m against it; on the contrary, I’m all for using AI and tech in general to better our human condition. It’s why I got into the field myself. I just think we should do it in a measured fashion and stay mindful of the side effects of its implementation, rather than letting those things be an afterthought.

Anyway, I’ll balance the scales here with a piece of AI history by sharing an excerpt from the book’s concluding remarks on the applications of AI. Comparatively, it does renew my appreciation of how far we’ve come technologically over the last thirty years.

AI’s most immediate applications are peaceful: Intelligent interfaces that make computers easier to use for everyone, such as telephones where you can talk in German but listen on the other end in English. Household robots will vacuum our houses some day (not soon, but some day); AI generally holds the promise of freeing us from the drudgery that we can hope to delegate to our machines.

AI is a field with tremendous potential and with tremendous risks—as is any other scientific discipline. The problem—indeed, the very idea—of constructing an intelligent artifact is sure to capture the public inteest. We must be sure that our zeal and enthusiasm is confined to our research, and does not damage our abilities to honor the responsibility that we all have to keep the public well informed of the nature of scientific activities.

— Matt Ginsberg, Essentials of Artificial Intelligence, 1993

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