03/07/2014 07:58 BST | Updated 03/07/2014 07:59 BST

After 30 Years, Is Cycorp's 'Human' AI Ready For Prime Time?

Blend Images - Colin Anderson via Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is one of those futuristic sci-fi ideas that seems to trickle along just underneath the public consciousness. Then all of a sudden we're electing computers to company boards of directors, accurately replicating human personalities and giving them the nuclear codes, probably.

Now we're learning about an AI which has been developed largely in secret - for three decades - but now looks poised to do some objectively very clever, subjectively slightly creepy stuff.

According to this piece by Business Insider, a company called Cycorp has developed an evolving, intelligent computer which is able to parse millions of pieces of information about how people speak, think, work and solve problems.

The result - Cyc - has been under development since 1984. But now, according to its inventors, it's ready for prime time.

"For the first time, we're close to having this be applicable enough that we want to talk to you," said Doug Lenat, President and CEO of Cycorp, in an interview with SAI.

Cycorp claims that its system can receive instructions in plain English and carry out those demands without having to have the code to do it manually programmed. Think Siri, if it could actually do more than a bunch of glorified Google searches and on-off tasks.

"It's the most important project one could work on, which is why this is what we're doing. It will amplify human intelligence," Lenat said.

The implications could be huge - Cyc could potentially replicate human intelligence at different ages or stages, to help refine approaches to teaching. It might be able to act as a natural language guide for the blind, fight terrorism or be used for new types of video games.

On the other hand, it's not like Cycorp are the only ones in this market. In fact Google is among the big tech giants which this year alone has made massive investments in other AI systems, acquiring -- for instance -- DeepMind for $400 million. And there are several other UK-based businesses in the market too.

Still, it's interesting (if a little vague) stuff, and we recommend heading over to SAI to read more about Cyc and its potential implications.