Timeline of AI

·6 mins
Christoph C. Cemper

Artificial intelligence is a relatively recent technological achievement, but the idea of something non-human that’s capable of human-like intelligence dates all the way back to ancient times. Over the centuries since, the timeline of AI has become exponentially denser, with the pace of technological progress rapidly accelerating in the past few decades. In a time when new advances in AI seem to come almost daily, it’s interesting to look back at the events that have brought us this far.

  1. 900s B.C.E.

    A Chinese artificer named Yan Shi presents King Mu with a mechanical man. According to legend, the figure could walk, sing, and even flirt.

  2. 700 B.C.E.

    The Greek poet Hesiod writes of a bronze robot named Talos that was created to protect the island of Crete.

  3. First Century C.E.

    Hero of Alexandria writes On Automata-Making, describing his invention of a  robotic theater, a mobile device containing mechanical figures that could act out a play.

  4. 260 C.E.

    Porphyry, a Greek philosopher, draws the first known diagram of a  semantic network, an illustration of how different concepts are connected.

  5. Ninth Century

    Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a mathematician in Baghdad, writes textbooks that are later translated into Latin. The name “al-Khwarizmi” is the origin of the modern word “algorithm.”

  6. 1564

    Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian intellectual and frequent gambler, writes the first book about probability theory, Liber de Ludo Aleae. However, this work would not be published until 1663.

  7. 1642

    French philosopher and mathematician  Blaise Pascal invents the first mechanical calculator.

  8. 1676

    German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz derives the chain rule, a mathematical formula that would underpin how AI neural networks are trained.

  9. 1679

    Leibniz proposes the alphabet of human thought, the concept that all knowledge could be broken down into elements that could be assigned numbers, which could then be manipulated mathematically to solve any problem.

  10. 1738

    Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli publishes Specimen Theoriae Novae de Mensura Sortis, which introduced the concept of utility as a factor in decision-making. This would be incorporated into modern AI as a measure of how satisfactory a solution or response is in relation to the stated objective.

  11. 1800

    Joseph Marie Jacquard, a French weaver, invents a loom that can be programmed using punched cards, automating the creation of different patterns and textures in the fabric.

  12. 1818

    Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, a novel that explores the ethical issues involved in creating a sentient being.

  13. 1843

    Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer, translates a paper about the analytical engine, a calculating machine invented by Charles Babbage. She adds lengthy notes to the paper, including an appendix that contains the  first computer program.

  14. 1854

    English mathematician George Boole invents a type of algebra based on two variables: true or false, indicated by 1 or 0.  Boolean algebra is central to how modern computers work.

  15. 1863

    Novelist Samuel Butler writes an article titled “Darwin Among the Machines,” which presents the idea that machines could evolve like living things do and might someday develop consciousness and replace humans.

  16. 1912

    Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo invents El Ajedrecista, an autonomous machine that can play chess.

  17. 1936

    Konrad Zuse, a German engineer, patents the first modern programmable computer.

  18. 1937

    English mathematician  Alan Turing publishes a proof in which he introduces the idea of a computer that could perform any type of computation that a human can.

  19. 1943

    Neuroscientists Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts publish the first math-based description of how neurons work in the brain, which would form the basis for the concept of computerized neural networks.

  20. 1949

    Donald Hebb, a Canadian psychologist, publishes a book in which he proposes the idea that neurons in the brain that fire at the same time form stronger connections to each other. This forms the basis of Hebbian learning, a method used to adjust the weights of values in an AI neural network during the learning process.

  21. 1950

    Turing publishes a paper that introduces the  Turing test, a test of a computer’s ability to fool a human into thinking that the machine is a human.

  22. 1956

    While helping to organize a conference at Dartmouth College, computer scientist John McCarthy coins the term “artificial intelligence.”

  23. 1959

    The General Problem Solver is created by Allen Newell, J.C. Shaw, and Herbert Simon. This computer program is designed to mimic human problem-solving skills and is considered to be one of the first AIs.

  24. 1963

    Leonard Uhr and Charles Vossler publish a paper describing a program that could recognize patterns as well as create and evaluate new rules for doing so. This was one of the first examples of how machine learning could allow a program to develop and improve its problem-solving methods on its own.

  25. 1964

    Danny Bobrow’s doctoral thesis describes a program that can solve algebra word problems written in natural language.

  26. 1965

    Joseph Weizenbaum builds  ELIZA, the first chatbot.

  27. 1968

    The book and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey spread the idea of a sentient robot throughout popular culture in the form of the character HAL 9000.

  28. 1979

    Hans Moravec builds the first autonomous vehicle, a computer-controlled cart that can navigate a room full of obstacles.

  29. 1980

    The American Association for Artificial Intelligence holds its first conference.

  30. 1985

    Harold Cohen demonstrates AARON, a program that can create drawings, at AAAI’s national conference.

  31. 1986

    Ernst Dickmanns and his team build VaMoRs, the first roadworthy  self-driving vehicle, and test it on empty German roads, where it reaches highway speeds.

  32. 1991

    The U.S. military uses an AI planning program called DART to help manage logistics during the Gulf War.

  33. 1995

    A semi-autonomous car drives from the East Coast to the West Coast in an experiment dubbed “No Hands Across America.” A human occupant controls the gas and brake, but the computer does most of the steering.

  34. 1997

    Deep Blue, a chess computer created by IBM, beats world champion Garry Kasparov.

  35. 1998

    Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, publishes a plan for creating the Semantic Web, which would enable data to be more readily understood and retrieved by computers.

  36. 1998

    Furby, a popular robotic toy, becomes the first mass-marketed product that incorporates AI.

  37. 2002

    iRobot introduces the Roomba, the first autonomous vacuum cleaner.

  38. 2004

    NASA lands two autonomous rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, on Mars.

  39. 2011

    IBM’s  Watson defeats Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

  40. 2011

    Apple integrates Siri, the first natural-language digital assistant app, into its iPhones.

  41. 2012

    Google Brain’s AI learns to recognize cats in YouTube videos.

  42. 2015

    Physicist Stephen Hawking and dozens of experts in AI sign a  letter calling for research on the ethical and safety concerns surrounding the development and use of AI. Thousands of AI researchers, along with Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, sign a second letter seeking a ban on autonomous weapons research and use.

  43. 2017

    In a  paper titled “Attention Is All You Need,” a team of researchers led by Ashish Vaswani describe transformers, a type of deep learning architecture that requires less  training time compared to previous neural architectures. This technology would be used in Google’s BERT as well as in the development of generative pre-trained transformers, or GPTs.

  44. 2018

    OpenAI introduces the first GPT.

  45. 2022

    OpenAI releases  ChatGPT, a generative AI tool based on GPT-3.5 that can respond to natural-language questions and  prompts and generate human-sounding text. ChatGPT quickly becomes the  fastest-growing consumer application of all time.

  46. 2023

    Microsoft adds  ChatGPT’s capabilities to its search engine, Bing.

  47. 2023

    OpenAI releases GPT-4, which is incorporated into ChatGPT.

  48. 2023

    Google releases Google Bard, its own generative AI tool. This technology is swiftly integrated into the company’s search engine to create  Google Search Generative Experience.