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June 28th, 2006
Fictional Accounts of Artificial Intelligence Serve as Models for the Real Thing
By Dale Roethlisberger

Exploring written works for signs of Arti (Artificial Intelligence) can be a complex activity. It’s hard to determine just exactly when the concept of artificial intelligence first appeared in speculative stories. Robot-like intelligences can go back as far as the epic tale of “Gilgamesh”. Some have interpreted the story in this fashion (see the “Outer Limits” episode ‘Demon With a Glass Hand’). However, since I was a child of the 1950’s, this is where we will begin. There’s good reason to start with fictional tales of Arti written in the 1950’s. Mainstream use of computers hit their stride at this time. This was the time when most people had their first exposure to machines that could ‘think’ in an albeit limited way.

Two novels come to mind immediately. First, “Against the Fall of Night” by Arthur C. Clarke (later re-released as “The City and the Stars”) introduced us to the “master associators”. These intelligent machines contained the sum total knowlege of everything that had taken place in the city of Diaspar for eons. There was only one catch. Even though the master associators were highly intelligent, you still had to know how to ask the right questions. A second novel comes to mind as a defining point for Arti. Isaac Asimov’s “I Robot” first appeared in the mid-50’s. This novel set the stage for the societal implications of artificial intelligence. The “Three Laws of Robotics” have become a mainstay of our thoughts on Arti.

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June 27th, 2006
Powerful Cultural Memes Assist the Drive Towards Artificial Intelligence
By Dale Roethlisberger

Charles Babbage (1792-1871) is a good place to start in our quest for the fabled Arti. Babbage was an English astronomy student who embarked on a career as a computer engineer when hardly anyone had even thought of the computer concept and engineer referred to someone who ran a steam locomotive. Between 1827 and 1833, Babbage attempted to build his “Difference Engine” which basically was a rather sophisticated mechanical calculator of around 25,000 parts. The Difference Engine actually worked in a limited way (about 10% of the device was made with 2,000 hand-made brass parts and it could do some calculations). Babbage was a perfectionist though, and this had dire consequences for him. He suffered a nervous breakdown from his obsessions with his work and finances.

After 1833, Charles Babbage started concentrating on his follow-up concept to the Difference Engine. The “Analytical Engine” would be a full-blown programmable machine with memory (the “store”) and a processing unit (the “mill”). The Analytical Engine would use punched cards for storage, input, and output. The technical papers on the Analytical Engine and its potential programmed use read like the manuals of computers from a hundred years later. The biggest problem facing the building and completion of the Analytical Engine was the state of metal parts manufacturing and precision during the mid-1800’s. Of course, obtaining the finances was a major hurdle to overcome as well. But, if Babbage had been able to produce more of his Difference Engine economically and rapidly, then we would have had the computer revolution a hundred years earlier

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June 26th, 2006
Meet Our Mascot, ‘Arti’
By Dale Roethlisberger
the Robot, it never had a real name

Does this image bother you in any way? Probably not. Maybe it should. Of course it’s just a cartoon version of the robot from “Lost In Space” and any claim to real intelligence died when the writers and the TV series was cancelled. On the other hand, this robot is a modified version of an earlier model, ‘Robby the Robot’ from the classic sci-fi flick “Forbidden Planet”. Robby was much more human. Witty, concerned, moralistic, highly cogent, friendly, loyal and quite a bit more was our acquaintance with Robby.

Before Robby was the powerful, but not as well-rounded, Gort from “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. “Klaatu barada nicto” to you too. Gort and Robby serve as two shining examples of the ‘Arti’ phenomena. Arti (artificial intelligence) deserves your undivided attention much more than the UFO flappers or the ‘conspiracy’ theorists.


Arti does exist. Maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction, but ask professional chess-players about the latest implementations of ‘chess playing’ software/computers and you might hear a different story. Of course these chess systems still aren’t great conversationalist’s while they are in a match, that is, until someone decides that ‘insult’ and ‘taunting’ artificial verbal behavior may be an important overall strategy when Arti’s are playing humans in chess matches.