Any of you familiar with Martin Gardner
? He did something on Machine Learning 50-60 years ago, but I don't remember what it was.
I do remember constructing a 'machine' from matchboxes ~50 years ago, which would learn how to perform some task optimally thru iteration. Again, I don't recall the task, it was probably some intriguing project in a magazine.
There were a lot of matchboxes involved, and small balls to put inside them. I'm totally guessing now, but I imagine each box represented a possible choice, and probably got a ball if it became part of a winning 'route'. Once optimized, you simply made choices for the 'machine' based on whether or not an available box contained a ball.
Machines have been performing better than humans at many tasks for a long time, which has made huge contributions to our economic and tech advancement. If machines can crack one of humanity's biggest flaws—that everyone has to learn all from scratch—the advances could be way off any scales we could imagine.
That said, it'll likely be a long time before machines git gud at the higher-level brain processes when there isn't complete data available—like behavioral pattern recognition, decision making, risk analysis, etc.