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Seventy years of highs and lows in the history of machine learning

From the birth of the phrase “artificial intelligence” to the eve of quantum supremacy.

Seventy years of highs and lows in the history of machine learning
[Source images: Jolygon/iStock; Svetlana Orusova/iStock]

1950

The Imitation Game
Alan Turing introduces the Turing Test, which challenges a machine’s ability to display intelligent behavior indistinguish-able from a human’s.

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1956

The beginning of AI
The Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence popularizes the term.

1963

Cold War concerns
U.S. government agencies like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) fund AI research at universities such as MIT, hoping for machines that will translate Russian instantly.

1968

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
2001: A Space Odyssey is released, featuring the autonomous and lethal AI, HAL 9000.

1974

The Winter of AI
With disappointingly small yields from AI investments, governments around the world pull back on funding and research. The winter lasts two decades, with just a few heat waves of progress.

1984

Common-sense AI
Douglas Lenat sets out to construct an AI that can do common-sense reasoning. He develops it for 30 years before it is used commercially.

Fans watch the fifth game between World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov (on TV monitor) and the IBM Deep Blue computer on May 10th in New York. [Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images]

1997

Checkmate
IBM’s Deep Blue beats world champion Garry Kasparov in chess.

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2000

“The ideal search engine is smart.”
Larry Page discusses directing Google Search toward AI.

Apple’s Senior Vice President of iOS Scott Forstall speaks about the new voice recognition app called Siri at the event introducing the new iPhone 4s at the company’s headquarters October 4, 2011. [Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

2011

Hey, Siri
Apple introduces Siri after acquiring the technology from Stanford Research Institute the year before.

2012

Catching cats
A Google neural network trains itself to recognize cats and humans by viewing millions of images from YouTube, detecting cats with 74.8% accuracy and faces with 81.7%.

2014

Game over
Stephen Hawking says, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

2015

AI for everyone
Google releases TensorFlow, an open-source platform for machine learning.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the Google I/O 2017 [Photo: Justin Sullivan / Staff]

2017

AI First
Sundar Pichai announces that Google is shifting from a “mobile-first world to an AI-first world.”

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2018

Backlash
Amid record funding for AI startups, Google is criticized for selling AI to the Pentagon, and Amazon faces scrutiny for how police departments use its facial-recognition AI.

2019

“The writing is on the wall.”
The head of Google’s quantum team presents its growth rate, which suggests that quantum supremacy is nigh.

A version of this article appeared in the October 2019 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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