November 6, 2023
This week in The History of AI at AIWS.net – DARPA founded the Strategic Computing Initiative to fund research of advanced computer hardware and artificial intelligence in 1983. DARPA stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research and development agency founded by the US Department of Defense in 1958 as the ARPA. Although its aim was for usage in the military, many of the innovations the agency funded were beyond the requirements for the US military. Some technologies that emerged from the backing of DARPA are computer networking and graphical user interfaces. DARPA works with academics and industry and report directly to senior DoD officials.
The Strategic Computing Initiative was founded in 1983, after the first AI winter in the 70s. The initiative supported projects that helped develop machine intelligence, from chip design to AI software. The DoD spent a total of 1 billion USD (not adjusted for inflation) before the program’s shutdown in 1993, even though there were several cuts in the late 80s. Although the initiative failed to reach its overarching goals, specific targets were still met.
This project was created in response to Japan’s Fifth Generation Computer program, funded by the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1982. The goal of this program was to create computers with massively parallel computing and logic programming and to propel Japan to the top spots in advanced technology. This will then create a platform for future developments in AI. By the time of the program’s end, the opinion of it was mixed, divided between considering it a failure or ahead of its time.
Although the results of the SCI and other computer/AI projects in the 80s were mixed, they helped brought funding back to AI development after the first AI winter in the 70s. The History of AI marks the Strategic Computer Initiative as an important event in AI due to its revival of AI in the US. The SCI towards its ends also indicated a second AI winter.