The Quest for Artificial Intelligence

In 1837 Charles Babbage described “Analytical Engine” (AE for short). Had he succeeded in actually building AE, it would have the first Turing Complete computer designed by humans.

Although, he never succeeded in building an actual AE, the concept had illuminating impact on the thinking of Lady Lovelace, a friend of Charles Babbage.It would not be wrong to say that the Lady was the first programmer in the world, as she created instruction sets to be given to the eventual AE. Apart from that, in 1842, she wrote extensive notes on the potential workings and impact of AE.

In these notes, she says: >“(The Analytical Engine) might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine. Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

This quote illustrates brightly that no sooner had a human mind conceived a Turing complete machine, another human mind conceived its application in the most mystical of human capability – thecomposition of music. Lady Lovelace was no fool. She had no illusions that her friend’s AE has any soul, for she says: >“The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with. This it is calculated to effect primarily and chiefly of course, through its executive faculties; but it is likely to exert an indirect and reciprocal influence on science itself in another manner. For, in so distributing and combining the truths and the formulæ of analysis, that they may become most easily and rapidly amenable to the mechanical combinations of the engine, the relations and the nature of many subjects in that science are necessarily thrown into new lights, and more profoundly investigated. This is a decidedly indirect, and a somewhat speculative, consequence of such an invention. It is however pretty evident, on general principles, that in devising for mathematical truths a new form in which to record and throw themselves out for actual use, views are likely to be induced, which should again react on the more theoretical phase of the subject. There are in all extensions of human power, or additions to human knowledge, various collateral influences, besides the main and primary object attained.”

So, while dismissing computers as soulless entities, she correctly predicts the birth of the field of computer science and the quest for efficient algorithms that provide the illlusions of intelligence, which began in full earnest in the second half of 20th century.

We need to ask a question here. If Lady Lovelace was so prescient in predicting the birth of a whole new field of algorithms and computer science by a full century, why is her prediction of computers creating beautiful music is not yet a reality a full 172 years later, and will it become a reality soon?

We, at AlgoCircle, are basing our business premise on the power of algorithms to create intelligence out of data. Hence, we take it on ourselves to answer the above question. In this new weekly column, we will attempt to look at trials and tribulations of the quest for artificial intelligence and machine learning, and will attempt to predict the future. Needless to say, we are working hard to make the future that we are predicting a reality sooner than you would ever expect. So stay tuned.

Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ada_Lovelace_portrait.jpg

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