Detailed Explanation: In the context of AI and computing, brute force refers to a method where every possible option is tried until the correct solution is found. This approach is often applied in algorithms and cryptography, particularly in situations where the problem space is finite and can be exhaustively searched. Although simple and sometimes effective, brute force methods are usually computationally expensive and inefficient, especially as the size of the problem space increases. In AI, brute force can be seen in decision tree searches, such as those used in games like chess, where the algorithm explores all potential moves to determine the best outcome. Despite its inefficiency, brute force remains a fundamental concept that underpins more advanced heuristic and optimization techniques.

Historical Overview: The concept of brute force dates back to the early days of computing in the 1940s and 1950s, gaining prominence with the development of algorithms and cryptographic techniques. It became particularly noteworthy with the advent of more powerful computers in the late 20th century, which could handle larger datasets and more complex computations.

Key Contributors: Key figures in the development and application of brute force methods include pioneers in computing and cryptography like Alan Turing, who conceptualized exhaustive search methods, and Claude Shannon, whose work in information theory laid the groundwork for understanding computational limits. Additionally, modern cryptographers and computer scientists have refined and expanded brute force techniques within various fields.