Early Expert Systems: Where Are They Now?

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Abstract

Expert systems (ES) were among the earliest branches of artificial intelligence (AI) to be commercialized. But how successful have they actually been? Many well-publicized applications have proven to be pure hype, numerous AI vendors have failed or been completely reorganized, major companies have reduced or eliminated their commitment to expert systems, and even Wall Street has become disillusioned -- a predicted $4 billion market proving to be smaller by an order of magnitude. Yet, in spite of these setbacks, there are many companies who remain enthusiastic proponents of the technology, and continue to develop important ES applications.

The paper describes an investigation exploring how the first wave of commercial expert systems, built during the early and mid-1980s, fared over time. An important subset of these systems, identified in a catalog of commercial applications compiled in 1987, was located through a telephone survey, and detailed information on each systems was gathered. The data collected show that most of these systems fell into disuse or were abandoned during a five-year period from 1987 to 1992, while about a third continued to thrive. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data further suggested that the short-lived nature of many systems was not attributable to failure to meet technical performance or economic objectives. Instead, managerial issues such as lack of system acceptance by users, inability to retain developers, problems in transitioning from development to maintenance, and shifts in organizational priorities, appeared to be the most significant factors resulting in long term systems disuse.

Additional Details

Author T. Grandon Gill
Year 1995
Volume 19
Issue 1
Keywords Artificial intelligence, expert systems, implementation, systems development
Page Numbers 51-81