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The Quest for Artificial Intelligence 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521122931
ISBN-10: 0521122937
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Editorial Reviews


"With the investigatory skill of a historian for the earliest work, personal recollections and reflections of early work, and unprecedented access to current researchers; and with the wit of a skilled author and teacher and the insight of a founding father, Nils Nilsson is uniquely qualified to present this lucid, comprehensive, entertaining and balanced history of AI."
Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google Inc.

"Nils reminds us of the grand scope of the AI enterprise and provides an excellent vantage point from which to assess the remarkable progress that has occurred. At the same time, the book provides unique and detailed historical insight into how things really happened. My only complaint is that Nils has, as always, understated his own important role in the story."
Stuart Russell, University of California, Berkeley

"Nilsson is one of the world's earliest AI researchers and practitioners, and here he presents a vivid history of Artificial Intelligence - its early breakthroughs, intermediate setbacks, current successes, and forthcoming triumphs."
Takeo Kanade, U.A. and Helen Whitaker University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

"Nils Nilsson has written the definitive intellectual history of Artificial Intelligence research; something that he himself has been a key player in for over forty of its 53 years. In this book he not only explains all of the major ideas and fashions in AI, but he traces how the ideas arose, where they arose and why. This well mannered book explains AI. All of it."
Rodney Brooks, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

"A wonderfully comprehensive and entertaining look at how artificial intelligence was invented and developed."
Alan Kay, President of Viewpoints Research Institute

"Nils's book is a tour de force that serves as a valuable hiker's guide through the twists and turns of the historical trails of the first several decades of the quest for artificial intelligence."
Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research and President of the AAAI

"Nilsson's new book is a fascinating chronology of artificial intelligence, written by one of the doyens of the field. It should appeal to a broad audience with its sweeping coverage of topics ranging from game playing to computer vision and natural language processing."
Prabhakar Raghavan, Head of Yahoo! Labs

"A balanced look at what AI has been able to do during its first 50 years of existence. His personal recollections and the rationale behind many decisions, as retold by an insider, make this book a unique contribution, interesting both for the informed and for the general reader. Both kinds of readers can learn a lot from Nilsson's book about the evolution of this now-mature research field. The book is written in a friendly conversational style, without any unnecessary mathematical formalisms, and is richly illustrated with many diagrams that depict representative AI systems and photographs of the many innovators that led to their development."
Fernando Berzal, reviews.com

"Nilsson crafts a highly readable and personal account of the theory and practitioners that brought the world to present-day AI... the text [is] accessible and the descriptions personal."
T. Armstrong, Wheaton College for Choice Magazine

Book Description

This book is the definitive history of the field of artificial intelligence (AI), tracing its history from the dreams of early pioneers to the more successful work of today's AI engineers. The book includes many diagrams and easy-to-understand descriptions of AI programs that will help the casual reader gain an understanding of how these and other AI systems actually work.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521122937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521122931
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter E. Hart on January 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Nils J. Nilsson's book begins with the story of how artificial intelligence originated in 1956 at a Dartmouth summer project that had the goal of "making a machine behave in ways that would be called intelligent if a human were so behaving." It relates how in the fifty-plus years that followed, AI has been the subject of overly-optimistic predictions, academic arguments that its goals are unachievable, funding excesses, and funding droughts. But the underlying reality is that AI has contributed key components to the technology foundations that shaped the modern world, and indeed has transformed our view of machines and of our relation to them.

The algorithms that compute your driving directions, and also compute the paths of characters in video games? They rely on results from AI research on mobile, intelligent robots. Those surprisingly high-quality voice response systems we encounter when we phone a customer-service number? They use results from AI research in speech recognition. The recommender systems ("You might also like") used by many web vendors? They use machine learning methods whose history is described by Nilsson. And AI technology is embedded in a host of less-apparent applications ranging from medical devices to automated securities trading systems.

Nils J. Nilsson's comprehensive account of the evolution of AI covers the field from its inception to recent times. All the major sub-fields of AI receive attention--from game playing to automatic problem solving, from computer vision to speech and language understanding, from expert systems to machine learning and probabilistic reasoning--all these and more are covered.

Nilsson enriches his account by viewing major developments through a multi-faceted prism.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is wise for practitioners in a field to know its history. Nils Nilsson wrote the first textbook on AI (artificial intelligence) I ever read, more than 40 years ago. "The Quest for Artificial Intelligence" is as comprehensive and readable a history of AI as I have encountered, covering the fields it developed out of through the collection of fields it has become today.

Nilsson is a part of that history, having made contributions to heuristic search, planning, and other areas of AI. He gives his own work fair coverage in the panorama of issues, problems, and large scale questions that have shaped AI since its inception.

"The Quest for Artificial Intelligence" compares favorably with Margaret Boden's massive, two volume history of cognitive science (AI being one of the cognitive sciences) "Mind As Machine." Nilsson's book is the one to read if you want a detailed understanding of what artificial intelligence is and has been, with enough technical detail to satisfy a student of AI while remaining readable and interesting to the educated layman.

If you have an AI library of six or more books, this should be one of them.
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After reading Russell & Norvig's amazing tome, this is a great high level refresher of the concepts covered there.
For an aspiring software engineer interested in developing algorithms that simulate the steps of a thought process, this book helps one understand:
A) what is currently possible, what is not possible & what is nearly possible :) ;
B) what approaches have hit dead ends & what alternative approaches superseded them;
C) what subcategories of AI research exist, & how they can be integrated
D) what areas of AI research are being actively investigated today and show promise of further advances.
E) how we stand upon the shoulders of giants [some amazing programmatic investigations took place before most script kiddies and raving transhumanists were even conceived].

In a way this last point is slightly melancholic - since the failure of the Japanese 5th Generation Computer Systems project (FGCS) in the 1980s, programming largely consists of re-inventing information systems ad nauseum. And yet cognitive science hints that the human brain is Turing Equivalent - unfortunately, the demand for immediate ROI stymies the effort to automate more tasks. This book is a potent reminder that programmers should strive to understand how to code outside this box.

A recommended read.
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Format: Paperback
This is an extremely literate, well written history of the first fifty years of AI by someone who fortuitously came in on the ground floor of this field. Nilsson's perspective is unique and invaluable for anyone interested in broadening their horizons, and in appreciating how many talented and driven individuals have contributed to AI's successes.

As a lay reader, I skipped the notes and many of the technical details and diagrams. I enjoyed the many interesting references scattered through the text. Just to give a flavor of these, in the first chapter alone there are references to Homer's "Iliad", Ovid's "Metamorphosis", The Talmud, opera (Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman"), and theater, Capek's "R.U.R." I won't mention more of them here but leave them for you to discover, choice morsels all. Although this is a scholarly work, it's accessible to anyone who is interested in what AI is all about.
AI has already become an integral part of our lives. It's used for computing driving directions, interactive computer games, aircraft control, credit card fraud detection, vending machine currency recognition, robot control, speech recognition, and face identification, to name just some of the more prominent examples.

I came away marveling at how far this field has come in 50 years and convinced of the need for more basic research. Most of the important inventions were due to basic research. At the time, the results, to an untrained eye, looked stunningly simple. People thought, "What good is that?" We're now reaping the harvest of those years of early work, and one hopes that, along with applications, basic research in the field will continue.

This book is a significant contribution to the history of science.
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