Yesterday, the very best AI (artificial intelligence) had trouble beating a novice human chess player. Today, the very best human player has enormous difficulty beating the best AI. Tomorrow, the very best human player will never beat any AI. However, that's not the worst news you've heard. This is:
Computers have no idea how to play chess whatsoever.
They also don't understand Chinese, but that doesn't stop them from trouncing us in chess or speaking Chinese. Let's find out how this is possible and speculate on whether or not we can actually create an AI capable of true understanding.
Mankind has been dreaming of AI since antiquity, so the idea is not new. Ancient Greek mythology, for example, tells of a giant bronze robot named Talos whose task it was to patrol the shores of Crete, protecting the inhabitants from invaders. In the Far East, circa 3rd century BC, the Chinese 'Lie Ze' text gives an account of mechanical men being given to King Mu of Zhou. Evidently, these automations were so lifelike that the king had some torn apart to ensure they were, in fact, artificial. The point is, the idea of thinking machines has been around for millennia.