During the 1980s, computer technology advanced at a pace far outdistancing its progress in previous decades. This paper examines one area of computer technology that has seen an especially concentrated amount of growth, artificial intelligence. Its history and potential are examined, as is a particular field of artificial intelligence, expert systems. In order to understand the potential of artificial intelligence, this paper focuses on one market area, finance.
To understand what artificial intelligence is, it is necessary to understand what it is not. Today's computers perform basically one task: processing data. They add, subtract, multiply, divide and compare numerical information. In order to do this, they must be programmed with step-by-step instructions, usually written in a computer "language."
Artificial intelligence systems can process information much more rapidly than can conventional computers. Instead of being limited to numerical information, they can understand symbolic information as well. This combination of rapid processing and the ability to understand symbols enables the artificial intelligence machines to process information simultaneously. In this way, artificial intelligence machines are able to compare facts and rules to make responses.
In 1956, the first working artificial intelligence machine was programmed to process symbols at a time when all other computers used numbers (Leepson, 1985, p. 626). The year 1956 also was the first time a workshop was held on artificial intelligence: a summer workshop at Dartmouth College included the nation's premier mathematicians. This conference focused on the theory that "every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it" (p. 627). Researchers in artificial intelligence focus their attention on two areas: how does the human mind process knowledge, and how can hu...