September 23rd, 2017

How Machines began to think – The history of Artificial Intelligence that you didn’t know

Change alone never changes

In the words of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”. Evolution is an ever continuing phenomena and the only thing consistent about mankind is change. As daily life got more and more automated and machine centric, creative brains began to widen the scope of such machines. A generation back, people used to say that you can hire anyone or anything to perform any tasks for you but not to think for you. But we, the citizens of twenty first century, know today that it is indeed a possibility. A simple example is how we schedule our day based on alerts from intelligent personal assistants such as ‘Siri’ and ‘Alexa’. So, as machines and automated devices enhanced their potential, artificial intelligence started to have prominent influence in our day to day life. As Hawking pointed out, the world has slowly started to adapt to that stupendous change.


The Yesterdays

The seeds of artificial intelligence can actually be traced way back to the antiquity period before the middle ages. Talos, Galatea and Pandora from the Greek myths of Hephaestus and Pygmalion were some of the very first ideas of artificial beings and intelligent robots. Somewhere between 1023 and 957 BC, Yan Shi, a craftsman, gifted life sized automated mechanical men, a wondrous engineering invention to Mu. Yen Shi, the fifth King of Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The rapid strides and up and down movement of their heads made them look almost like human. Interestingly, they were even able to sing. Heron of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician and engineer was an avid explorer of automated machines. Heron invented a completely mechanical play lasting ten minutes for the Greek theater which was run using a binary like system of ropes, knots and other machines which was operated by a rotating cylindrical cogwheel. Some of his other major inventions include the first vending machine, first wind powering machine, force pump and a programmable cart powered by a falling weight. It is widely believed that his works formed the base for what later came to be known as cybernetics.




Yan Shi


Heron of Alexandria

Kotsanas Museum Info:

Towards the year 1275, Ramon Llull, a Spanish theologian, introduced ‘Ars Magna’, a tool that could help connect concepts mechanically. The concept was based on ‘Zairja’, a device that medieval Arab astrologers used. The idea behind the invention was to use logical means to generate knowledge. In 1642, when he was just 19, the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal invented mechanical calculator. He designed the machine to directly add or subtract two numbers and to divide and multiply using repeated addition or subtraction. In 1672, German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, introduced digital mechanical calculator, known as ‘Stepped Reckoner’, that could perform multiplication and division. Leibniz’s operating system was carried forward to many calculating machines for over 200 years. He also envisioned the concept of universal calculus of reasoning where arguments can be settled down mechanically. He also worked on assigning a specific number to each and every object of the world which could serve as an algebraic solution to all problems in the world. In the 19th century, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace designed ‘Difference Engine’, an automatic mechanical calculator to organize polynomial functions. Most mathematical expressions used by engineers, scientists and navigators can be approximated by polynomials and hence the device helped to calculate many important table of numbers.

Pascal Mechanism


Stepped Reckoner

Difference Engine











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