In 1987, the US series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" introduces the Starfleet crew member Data, an AI in the form of an android. With the intellectual abilities of a human, Data worked based on parameters that allowed him to capture and analyze information. Subjective findings, intuition or social competences are not part of his system. Nevertheless, the figure strives to become more and more human-like through intensive training. For over 30 years, Data has embodied the vision of an intelligent machine – a strong AI that acts intelligently and flexibly on its own initiative.
Nowadays, that’s more than just a vision.
Research into AI was already ongoing as early as the 1950s. One of its most famous representatives is Alan Turing, a British Mathematician who is known as the founder of the theoretical information and computer technology. In his paper “Computer Machinery and Intelligence”, published in 1950, he brings up the question of whether machines can simulate the human brain and act at the same level of intelligence. The Turing Test, which he developed to test those capabilities, is still valid nowadays. But to date, no machine has passed this test.
Although there are many examples of so-called ‘weak’ or ‘narrow’ AI already being applied in everyday life – for example, in navigation systems, speech recognition, automated translations – these are primarily rule-based systems that use various methods to solve problems. The more advanced systems, such as voice assistants, self-driving cars or robots – such as those that are being developed by the American company Boston Dynamics – are still far away from the strong AI that can perform at the same level as a human brain. While we can learn facts independently using a few examples and transfer them to new problems, machines today must be trained with very large amounts of pre-structured data – this is known as ‘deep learning’.
All in all, the possibilities in the field of AI are far from exhausted. Researchers are striving to create a form such as the fictional android, Data: a machine that finds its way around the world, continuously learns new things, and can transfer existing knowledge to new tasks.