"Blaise Pascal was 19 when he made an “arithmetic machine” for his tax collector father. It could add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Three centuries later, the IRS uses machine learning to combat tax evasion."
"German mathematician, philosopher, and occasional poet Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz devised the system of binary code that laid the foundation for modern computing."
"A moving, mechanical device designed to imitate a human, “The Turk” fooled even Napoleon into thinking it could play chess. The jig was up in 1857 when The Turk’s final owner revealed how a person hidden inside moved its arms."
"Englishman Charles Babbage conceived a general all-purpose device that could be programmed with punched cards. His Analytical Machine was never built, yet nearly all modern computers rely on its logical structure."
"Philosopher and closet mystic George Boole created a form of algebra in which all values can be reduced to “true” or “false.” Essential to modern computing, Boolean logic helps a CPU decide how to process new inputs."
"Set in 2026 Berlin, Fritz Lang’s expressionist sci-fi film “Metropolis” introduced moviegoers to the idea of a thinking machine. His character, “False Maria,” was the first robot ever depicted on film."
"Inspired by how we follow specific processes to perform tasks, English logician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing theorized how a machine might decipher and execute a set of instructions. His published proof is considered the basis of computer science."
"A neurophysiologist and a mathematician co-wrote a paper on how human neurons might work. To illustrate the theory, they modeled a neural network with electrical circuits. In the 1950s, computer scientists would begin applying the idea to their work."
"Machine learning pioneer Arthur Samuel created a program that helped an IBM computer get better at checkers the more it played. Machine learning scientists often use board games because they are both understandable and complex."
"In computing, a “neural network” is a system modeled on the human nervous system. The first neural network applied to a real world problem, Stanford’s MADALINE used an adaptive filter to remove echoes over phone lines. It’s still in use today."
"Ridley Scott’s film, based on a Philip K. Dick novel, asks what happens if machines get smart enough to develop emotions. Though a box office flop, Blade Runner went on to become a sci-fi classic."
"Invented by Terry Sejnowski and Charles Rosenberg, this artificial neural network taught itself how to correctly pronounce 20,000 words in one week. Early outputs sounded like gibberish, but with training its speech became clearer."
"When IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, it was the first time a computer had bested a human chess expert — and possibly the last. Kasparov demanded a rematch, but IBM declined and immediately retired Deep Blue."
"Computers can’t cure cancer (yet), but they can help us diagnose it. The CAD Prototype Intelligent Workstation, developed at the University of Chicago, reviewed 22,000 mammograms and detected cancer 52% more accurately than radiologists did."
"When his field fell off the academic radar, computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton rebranded neural net research as “deep learning.” Today, the internet’s heaviest hitters use his techniques to improve tools like voice recognition and image tagging."
"In 2006, Netflix offered $1M to anyone who could beat its algorithm at predicting consumer film ratings. The BellKor team of AT&T scientists took the prize three years later, beating the second-place team by mere minutes."
"Though not a perfect player, IBM’s Watson did manage to outwit two Jeopardy! champions in a three-day showdown. Plans for this technology include powering a computerized doctor’s assistant."
"A neural network created by Google learned to recognize humans and cats in YouTube videos — without ever being being told how to characterize either. It taught itself to detect felines with 74.8% accuracy and faces with 81.7%."
"Devised by cryptanalyst Alan Turing in 1950, this test requires a machine to fool a person into thinking it’s human through conversation. Sixty years to the day after Turing’s death, a chatbot convinced 33% of human judges that it was a Ukrainian teen."
"Google’s AlphaGo was the first program to best a professional player at Go, considered the most difficult board game in the world. With this defeat, computers officially beat human opponents in every classical board game."
"We’re entering a new age of machine intelligence. From natural language processing, machine vision to robot controls, what is the limit?"