As recent as developments seem in the world of AI, the long and winding road of artificial intelligence formally began as far back as the mid-1950s at a nice little place called The Dartmouth Conference - this was back in 56’ to be specific.

Most historians and those associated with the scene widely considered this as the birthplace of AI. The project was to last eight weeks and was essentially seen as a brainstorming session, with over a dozen mathematicians and scientists attending.

Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude Shannon proposed the workshop as a summer program with other scientists.  In the early ’50s, people seemed to be rather centered around the idea of concepts like thinking machines and more words that seemed more fictional than factual, they even proposed something like automata theory, and more definitions and words that sounded like they were straight out of a H.G Wells novel; cue spaceships and complete gross misrepresentation of what AI really is, lucky for us along came John McCarthy, and here’s where things got really interesting.

The McCarthy Era in Artificial Intelligence

Names like thinking machines, automata theory, cybernetics, and complex information processing just didn’t seem to make the cut, and rightfully so.

Can you imagine some of the most recognized names in the tech world using words like cybernetics? Double cue Skynet, T1000, liquid metal – proverbial “come with me if you want to live” - end of the world apocalyptic meltdown. Thank heavens for McCarthy.

Here’s a picture of McCarthy

You see, McCarthy did more than coin the term artificial intelligence, he understood pretty early on, and we’re talking early - like the late ’50s and early 60’s that machines and men would eventually come together to make the best of a situation, solving complex problems in record time, but what was always emphasized on was - together.

Lisp & ALGOL

To state John McCarthy was busy when it came to the world of artificial intelligence would be an understatement. A true pioneer to the game; in-between coining the term, developing the Lisp programming language, popularizing time sharing and having significantly influenced the design of the ALGOL programming language, he was recognized, respected and regarded as one of the greatest minds when it came to artificial intelligence.

Here's another picture of him, in his element. A lot more youthful and as you can see, he clearly plays the part of: genius mathematician and a clear no shave November winner.

For his contributions to the field, he was eventually given the Turing Award in 1971 for his lecture "The Present State of Research on Artificial Intelligence". It would seem that McCarthy's contributions were almost immortalized by him and all his doctoral students. Rumor has it that everything he came to teach and in touch with was destined for AI greatness, all his students went on to make stellar breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence, computers and computer programming.

To name a few:

  1. Ruzena Bajcsy

With over 225 articles in journals and conference proceedings, Ruzena has 25 book chapters 66 technical reports and has been on many editorial boards! A highly respected professor, she teaches Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and like that wasn’t enough, overachieving seems to be a norm when it comes to AI, that quintessential overachiever/perfectionist has almost become synonymous in this area.

Oh, and she’s also the Director Emerita of CITRIS (the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society).

2. Ramanathan V. Guha

Named as a 2015 ACM Fellow for contributions to structured data representation and specification and their impact on the web (yup, that's a mouthful), Guha is the creator of web standards such as RSS, RDF and Schema.org.

If this wasn’t enough, he’s also responsible for products such as a little something called, Google Custom Search. For those of you’ll who aren’t too well versed with widely used web standards, RSS, also known as Rich Site Summary and Really Simple Syndication respectively is a type of web feed allowing users to access and update online content in a standardized and computer readable format

That’s a BIG DEAL. You’ve got to understand that websites usually use RSS feeds more frequently than you’d imagine – it’s used to publish frequently updated information, such as blog entries, news headlines and even episodes of audio and video series.

3. Barbara Liskov

Here’s another one of those important parts of the infamous McCarthy legacy. Liskov is a highly intelligent computer scientist, and we mean highly intelligent, she was one of the first women to be granted a computer science doctorate!

A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Barbara is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

A professor at MIT, in 2002 she was recognized as one of the top women faculty members at MIT, essentially; Barbara is considered America's pride and joy when it comes computer scientists and electrical engineers. She’s seen as among the top 50 faculty members in the sciences in America! Some would claim her biggest moment was when she received the Turing Award in 2008. However, we’d like to think it’s more about awards than a moment here, for those involved with the AI field would argue her two big moments would be when she developed programming languages in the 70s and 80s; namely CLU & Argus. CLU may not have found concrete use but is seen as a big step when it comes to the development of object-oriented programming (OOP).

4. Raj Reddy

Another Turing award winner here, this is perhaps the biggest testament when it comes to stating the proclivity of innovation and genius we’re talking about when it came to the late 60s all the way into the early 90s. Turing awards ga lore!

Considered one of the early pioneers when it comes to artificial intelligence, he’s also the founding director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

A true scholar, his love for learning and teaching had him eventually fill the spot of the Dean of School of Computer Science from 91 – 99 at the Carnegie Mellon University.

His AI research predominantly focused on perceptual and motor aspects of intelligence in regard to vision, language, speech, & robotics. Reddy and his team were first on the scene when it came to AI voice control, speaker independent speech recognition, large vocabulary connected speech recognition, and unrestricted vocabulary dictation. A lot of what we see in our Siris & Google Assistants today. He’s also known for building Hearsay I, Hearsay II; one of the firsts systems capable of continuous speech recognition.

From there to here!

From leveraging, learning, understanding and bettering human-machine interactions, we’ve come a long way in the world of artificial intelligence. It took a handful of them but as of today, we’ve got AI implementation in almost every form of business that’s looking to succeed in a highly competitive market. From super serious benefits to a shortened turnaround time. We’re in an age of super-intelligent machines, however; it took a whole lot of work from a couple of super-intelligent beings to get from there to here and AI is here to stay.