History Of AI In 33 Breakthroughs: The First AI-Driven Robot

The just-released World Robotics Report announced an all-time high of 517,385 new industrial robots installed in factories around the world in 2021, representing a 31% year-over-year growth. As a result, the current stock of operational robots worldwide rose to around 3.5 million, a new record.

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This robot record was achieved half a century after the development of SHAKEY, the world’s first “mobile intelligent robot”. According to the 2017 IEEE Milestone citation, it could “sense its surroundings, deduce implicit facts from explicit ones, make plans, recover from errors in plan execution, and communicate in ordinary English. SHAKEY’s software architecture, computer vision, and methods for navigation and planning have pioneered robotics and the design of web servers, automobiles, factories, video games, and Mars rovers.”

In November 1963, Charles Rosen, head of the AI ​​group at SRI, wrote a memo in which “he proposed the development of a mobile ‘automaton’ that would combine the pattern recognition and memory capabilities of neural networks with higher-level AI programs,” says Nils Nilsson in his book The search for artificial intelligence.

Rosen later recalled the origin of the robot’s name: “We spent a month trying to come up with a good name for it, going from Greek names to whatever, and then one of us said, ‘Hey, he’s shaking like hell and moves, let’s just call it Shakey.'” Nilsson: “Due to various technical peculiarities, the vehicle wobbled when it came to an abrupt stop.”

For SRI, where SHAKEY was developed between 1966 and 1972, its historical significance and “legendary status” lies in its unique “combination of robotics and AI into one system”. It also teased the powerful potential of robots. You can thank Shakey for inspiring countless technologies like cell phones, global positioning systems (GPS), the Roomba, and self-driving vehicles.”

According to the IEEE, SHAKEY was intended as an “experimental platform for integrating all aspects of artificial intelligence as it was understood at the time. Logical thinking, autonomous plan making, robust real-world plan execution, machine learning, computer vision, navigation and communication in ordinary English have been integrated into one physical system for the first time…

More specifically, Shakey is historically significant for three distinct reasons: (1) its control software was structured—a first for robots—in a layered architecture that became a model for subsequent robots; (2) His computer vision, planning, and navigation methods were used not only in many subsequent robots but also in a variety of consumer and industrial applications; and (3) Shakey served as proof of existence, encouraging later developers to create more advanced robots.”

Then as now, the developments in AI research become a practical reality for the media, a reality filled with excitement and fear. SHAKEY was featured prominently in a life Magazine article (November 20, 1970) subtitled “The fascinating and frightening reality of a machine with a mind of its own”.

MIT’s Marvin Minsky (1969 Turing Award winner “for his central role in creating, shaping, advancing, and advancing the field of artificial intelligence”), who served as an advisor to the SHAKEY project, is quoted extensively in the article. Minsky predicted “with reasonable certainty” that “in three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human. I mean a machine that will be able to read Shakespeare, grease a car, run office politics, tell a joke, argue. At this point, the machine begins to train itself at fantastic speed. In a few months it will be at awesome levels and a few months later its powers will be unpredictable.”

Minsky’s certainty was shared by other “people working on artificial intelligence” in 1970, as well as by many people (who work and don’t work on AI) who are now confident that “artificial general intelligence (AGI)” will emerge sooner or later becomes a “super intelligence” machine.

As Minsky’s timeline is extended to 15 years, all AI researchers will be interviewed by life 1970 “agreed that such a machine would exist and that it could bring about the third industrial revolution, eradicate war and poverty, and unleash centuries of growth in science, education, and the arts.” And just like today, the hype was accompanied by fear: “’The limited mind of man,’ says Minsky, ‘may not be able to control such tremendous mentalities… Once computers take control, we may never get it back again. We would survive under their tolerance. If we’re lucky, they might decide to keep us as pets.”

Just like today, the wild pronouncements were based on the creation of a very limited machine “intelligence” by human intelligence. And just like today, despite the resulting fears, there was still work to be done to achieve the “AI Holy Grail” because national glory (or survival) was at stake. When the reporter asked why not just unplug the thing when it gets out of control? Minsky replied: “The Russians are only about three years behind us in AI work. If our system were shut down, we would be at their mercy.” Russia, China, same difference. For AI researchers, it’s not just patriotism, it’s also a question of funding.

It is also about basic assumptions about the “fundamental basis of [human] Intelligence.” Most (or all?) of the people researching, investing in, and promoting AI today agree with Minsky’s claim from the 1970s life Article: “The human brain is just a computer that happens to be made of flesh.”

The history of AI includes many technological and conceptual breakthroughs. It has also been shown time and time again that – in our relationship to technology – the more things stay the same, the more they change.


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