Three AI milestones

In 1637, the French scientist and philosopher Rene Descartes predicted that one day, machines would be able to think and make decisions. He suggested some machines would learn to perform a specific task and some would be able to adapt to fulfill multiple roles. He also proposed that a machine could not use words to give a meaningful answer to what is said in its presence and that it would lack reasoning abilities.

Many years later, in 1950, his concepts formed the basis for the Turing test. Also known as The Imitation Game, the test measures whether a machine can think intelligently, like a human. The term artificial intelligence was coined in 1955 by computer scientist, John McCarthy.


In 1966, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the first chatbot — ELIZA. Using natural language processing, researchers taught the bot to use human language, rather than computer code. Unlike many of the chatbots of today, ELIZA communicated in text-only and couldn’t learn from her conversations. Despite this, she paved the way for the chatbots of today, such as Siri and Alexa.

Getting statistical

In 1988, program design switched to a focus on determining the probability of various outcomes, rather than determining rules. Researchers at IBM published A Statistical Approach to Language Translation, which introduced the principles of probability. 

IBM’s project involved translating over two million pairs of sentences between English and French.  This represented a big shift in approach, moving us closer to the machine learning methods of today.

Autonomous driving

In 2018, Waymo launched self-driving taxi services in Phoenix, Arizona — the first commercial autonomous vehicle service. First predicted in 1939 by General Motors, the technology is now on its way to becoming widespread.

AI is fundamental to autonomous driving — we want the vehicles to drive like human drivers do, avoiding obstacles or reacting to other vehicles on the road. This means it must be able to respond to the unexpected and make complete sense of the environment. Developers are turning to artificial neural networks to help achieve this, computer systems designed to learn in a similar way to a human.

Artificial intelligence has a long and rich history, where some of the greatest minds have come together to develop technology for ground-breaking applications.