And it’s about time. Machine thinking is another area where early expectations were not fulfilled. Attempts to invent artificial intelligence are generally dated to 1956, and a summer workshop at Dartmouth College for scientists with a pioneering interest in “machines that use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves.” At the time, machines with humanlike intelligence were often predicted to be about twenty years away. Now, they’re often predicted to be … well, about twenty years away.
The futurist philosopher Nick Bostrom has a cynical take on this. Twenty years is “a sweet spot for prognosticators of radical change,” he writes: nearer, and you’d expect to be seeing prototypes by now; further away, and it’s not so attention-grabbing. Besides, says Bostrom, “twenty years may also be close to the typical duration remaining of a forecaster’s career, bounding the reputational risk of a bold prediction.”
Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy
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