The New World of Artificial Intelligence

By Gregorio, Domenico de | UNESCO Courier, July 1987 | Go to article overview

The New World of Artificial Intelligence


Gregorio, Domenico de, UNESCO Courier


The new world of artificial intelligence

THE days may soon be past when a pessimist could say that a computer, for all its capacity for rapid calculation, was a "high-speed idiot' because it could not "reason'. We are now moving into the age of "intelligent machines' and of "artificial intelligence' --a discipline that has an important place in informatics.

Artificial intelligence is a branch of informatics which studies the theoretical bases, methodologies and techniques which make it possible to design hardware and software systems capable of performing tasks which to the non-expert would seem to belong exclusively to human intelligence. The aim of artificial intelligence research is to produce systems which behave intelligently and interact with the world outside them just as human beings do.

In practice, the results of research into artificial intelligence are now becoming part of our everyday lives. Artificial intelligence systems are acting as advisers and experts in such fields as lexicological analysis, medical diagnosis and genetic engineering. There are robots which have the power of perception and visual recognition and the ability to behave rationally in unfamiliar circumstances, terminals which converse in natural languages, either in speech or writing (though there are limits to their abilities in this sphere), systems that solve problems and demonstrate theorems.

Every two years, specialists meet to exchange information at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), which is usually held in a leading world centre for study in this field. The first conference was held in Washington, D.C., in 1969, and since then conferences have taken place in London, Stanford, Tbilisi, Cambridge, Tokyo, Vancouver, Karlsruhe and Los Angeles. This year the Conference is being held in Milan, in recognition of work done in Italy in this field of advanced research. It will take place from 23 to 28 August, in the Centro Congressi Mirafori.

The philosophy of IJCAI is based on the belief that contemporary thought has succeeded in unifying the concept of culture; the old idea that scientific culture and humanistic culture are two different things has been discarded. The culture of our day should therefore be characterized by the synthesis of these two forms of mental activity.

Artificial intelligence is thus claimed to be the supreme example of an interdisciplinary subject, as was made clear at a symposium to prepare for the IJCAI Conference in Milan, held at the St. Vincent Cultural Centre (Italy) on 21 February last. The work of the symposium, entitled in an allusion to Beckett's play, "Waiting for Robots: the immediate future of artificial intelligence', could perhaps be summarized saying that two fundamental questions are being asked in this field: how far and how soon will robotics be able to take the place of man; and will man ultimately be rivalled, if not completely outstripped, by machines.

Mr. Basilio Catania, the director of the Turin Telecommunications Research Centre and Laboratories, a leading Italian research institution in the field of artificial intelligence, pointed out that man possesses muscle power, faculties of perception, and intelligence. …

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