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Article: Ahmet Usta Photos: Cem Özkurt / Emek Kalfa
A Thousand – Year Old Dream
Numerous advances have been made in the area of artificial intelligence from the automatons designed by Al Jazari in the 1200’s up to now. It is none too soon to start discussing new horizons in the field.
Do you think I am self-aware and can convince you of it? she asked softly, her voice redolent with emotion. “I think the very fact that you asked the question means you are self-aware and you’re just wondering what the consequences are of convincing me of it,” replied the other, somewhat more loudly but in a reassuring tone. The people watching the presentation were uncomfortable. This conversation between two machines had raised question marks in their minds...
Human beings have been overwhelmed by a burning desire to discover a rational being of another species ever since they first became aware of the depths of their own consciousness. We live on a tiny planet that is a member of the solar system in a galaxy known as the Milky Way in a universe so vast that we don’t even know its limits. One of our most outstanding capacities is our faculty of speech. This ability to engage in an exchange of thoughts and feelings with other human beings is one of the greatest single factors that has made human progress in technology possible. And the knowledge and experience every generation has acquired and passed along to the next in oral and written form is undoubtedly the central building block in the foundation of our civilization. But beyond our ever expanding knowledge and experience we have another characteristic that distinguishes us from other creatures. Thanks to our perception of time and our ability to discern, we can perceive connections between the past and the future and, by collating those connections with our previous knowledge, arrive at conclusions and plan our lives. We could be said to be still at the first step of discovering the limits and mysteries of both the mind and the intelligence that make human beings so unique and perfect, because the complex structure and functioning of the organ we call the brain is one of the biggest universal mysteries still waiting to be unraveled.
DISCOVERING THE LIMITS OF THE BRAIN
One of the most powerful tools mankind has used on the path down which he embarked to unravel the mysteries of his own mental powers was his own imagination, first to imagine machines that could mimic those powers, and then, if he could, to build them. We see that this process dates all the way back to ancient Greek mythology. The legendary Talos was a gigantic human figure (robot) forged of bronze, built by Zeus to guard the Greek islands against attack. Spotting enemy ships, he performed his function by hurling enormous boulders at them. Beyond man’s imaginings, however, the construction of machines that we might actually regard as being able to act rationally occurred only after the year 1000. Al Jazari, or, by his full name, Abu al-’Iz Ibn Isma’il ibn Al-Razaz al-Jazari, from Diyarbakır in Turkey is regarded as a pathbreaker by scientists who build modern robots on account of the astonishing array of automatons he developed. Including upwards of fifty projects in his original work entitled, ‘The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices’, he wrote: “Any technical idea remains in limbo between truth and error until it is tested and applied.” So, is it possible for a machine to discern the difference between truth and error, to learn, to analyze results and to decide when the same situation is repeating itself? Alan Mathison Turing was a modern, 20th century scientist who sought an answer to this question. Turing is known as the father of modern Artificial Intelligence for the algorithm he developed.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Scientists like John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell and Herbert Simon laid the groundwork for the theory of Modern Artificial Intelligence in the work they did and the theories they developed in the 1950’s. The writing of programs became gradually easier with the development of personal computers (PC) in the 1970’s, and both programs and humanoid robots capable of human-like behavior were produced using the electronic receivers and control systems that developed in parallel with digital electronics.
The film industry takes great delight in developing Artificial Intelligence, a concept that unfortunately has gone little further today than generating somewhat scary scenarios that are nevertheless thrilling and fun to watch. Right now we are a long way from the technologies we see in films. But advances in Artificial Intelligence are occurring by the day, expediting man’s progress on the scientific adventure on which he has embarked. There is however one small detail that should not be overlooked, namely, that ever since he first appeared on Earth, Man has pondered and fretted over the mystery of his own existence. Yet, while debate continues on the question of self-awareness despite the thousands of years of thought and ideas already expended on the subject, we are still not even on the brink of creating another intelligence that is more of a threat to mankind than Man himself.