Article written by Kristine Kalnina

AI through time.

The past, the present and the possible future.

Humans have long been fascinated by the thought of creating intelligent beings out of inanimate objects. You would be forgiven to think this is a novel idea, but upon doing my research, I have come across ancient concepts that closely resemble what we think of as futuristic, sci-fi concepts.

The beginnings and initial struggles

With the 20th century came the rapid rise of the global film industry and growing investments made it possible to tell otherworldly stories through films. The science fiction movie was born and worldwide, audiences were treated to images of robots; machines, sometimes humanoid in appearance, that can make decisions and solve problems. Remember Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet in which Robby not only displays artificial intelligence but also human-like humour?

Early demonstrations and subsequent events

General Problem Solver: In 1959, RAND Corporation systems programmer J. C. Shaw, prominent economist, cognitive psychologist, political scientist Herbert A. Simon, and cognitive psychology and computer science researcher Allen Newell created General Problem Solver.

The AI resurgence and second fall during the 1980s

AI’s potential was too big for its research and development to be halted. Thanks to innovative techniques such as “deep learning” popularised by David Rumelhart and John Hopfield, the ’80s saw an AI resurgence.

No government funding? No problem!

In the ’90s, government funding into AI-related research and development had well and truly dried up and even the masses seemed to be oblivious to what was happening behind the scenes. Away from the scrutiny of the public eye, AI was steadily on its way to overcoming some of the obstacles it had faced over the previous decades.

The state of AI in 2020

AI in 2020 is literally everywhere and yet, most of us aren’t even aware of it. The lack of awareness stems from the unrealistic expectations that have come with AI — expectations that have often seen AI’s definition being twisted. Many people associate AI with the depictions of humanoid robots in sci-fi books, movies, and shows — machines that are smarter than humans.

It’s all about the User Experience

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

The future of AI

Before we go into how the future of artificial intelligence looks, it’s important for you to know that AI, as it stands today, is known as narrow or weak AI. Why? Because today’s AI can only execute narrow tasks and while it may potentially outperform any human being at a specific task, it still falls significantly short of humans overall. In her book “Hello World” Dr Hanna Fry compares the modern artificial intelligence to that of a hedgehog.


AI has come a long way and is yet to go the whole distance. Only time will tell how the human fantasy of having machines that can think and solve problems is realised. We certainly wouldn’t be here without the fathers of AI and Computing. However, unlike the scary sci-fi horrors in which AI rules over our world enslaving human race, the actual future is, or can be, bright. Working together and always thinking about the actual users of this new and exciting technology will help us design and develop solutions that will be helpful, not harmful.

UX Researcher, Product Manager and MA student of UX Design and Human Factors. Passionate about data, UX, AIX, MLUX and Product Development.

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