The Brain Makers
Over the past four decades, large corporations and research labs have tried to find a way to make computers behave more like humans. In particular, they have wanted to create thinking machines - computers that could learn, reason, and even understand the spoken word. The technology that attempts to do this is known as artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is about power: the power of man to recreate human intelligence in machines, and the power of man over those machines. Yet AI is also about the power to use intelligent computers as a weapon - literally - in the wars of corporate competition and personal egos, because in the story of man and machines, man is the real story. In the quest to create thinking computers, there are plenty of outsized egos to match the relative normalcy of the people that worked tirelessly to make AI a reality. People who had been tossed out of every other respectable job in the computer business often found a safe haven in AI, where they worked side by side with post-pubescent geniuses who would rather sleep in a room with a computer than in a room with a member of the opposite sex. Still other people, with no pretensions of greatness, made remarkable breakthroughs that pushed the technology further than it was ever expected to go.
You do not have to understand anything about machines to understand the business of artificial intelligence. Even if you've never used a computer, you are not at a loss in the pages that follow. Nor do you need to know anything concerning the age-old quandary about what really constitutes "thinking." This is the story of a technology that is being used by all of the world's major corporations - a technology that passes approval on credit card purchases, schedules the flights of airplanes, helps the IRS catch tax cheats, assists the FBI in tracking down serial killers, and makes life-and-death decisions in emergency rooms. It is a technology that is becoming an integral part of the world around us, even though we may never see it face-to-face.
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