Duplicating human intelligence in a machine has proceeded in fits and starts over the last 70 or so years. But suddenly it’s gaining momentum at a dizzying pace, and the action promises to intensify as machines continue to improve themselves without the help of humans.

Here’s some of what’s happened along the way and some of what appears likely as the next chapters unfold.

1950 Turing test: Alan Turing devises a test to gauge whether a machine can think like a human.

1952 Voice response: Bell Laboratories develops a computer that responds to spoken numbers.

1956 AI gets a name: Delegates to the Dartmouth Conference use the term “artificial intelligence” for the first time.

1958 Learning algorithm: Computers take...

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