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Geek Trivia: Cast the first drone

What early artificial intelligence computer program predates the term artificial intelligence, as the program was written before the famous 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which first published the term?
What early artificial intelligence computer program predates the termartificial intelligence, as the program was written before the famous 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which first published the term?

The program is the Logic Theorist, which was written over several months in 1955 and 1956 by Alan Newell, Herbert Simon, and J. C. Shaw while the trio worked for the RAND Corporation.

The Logic Theorist was an early search-tree algorithm program that was designed to efficiently solve formal logic problems. Newell, Simon, and Shaw set the Logic Theorist upon the task of generating proofs for the theorems contained in Principia Mathematica, an influential work of symbolic logic that defines and describes most major mathematic principles using a few basic logical axioms. To keep the processing efficient, the Logic Theorist's search tree was "pruned" using some foundational rules, which the programmers called heuristics, marking the first time this term from formal logic was applied to an artificial intelligence program. (Heuristics is now an entire subfield of AI research.)

The Logic Theorist not only generated proofs for 38 of the theorems in Principia Mathematica, but in at least one case, generated a more elegant proof than had been previously published. Ironically, when the trio tried to publish the new proof, all the major journals rejected it on the grounds that it was too elementary, despite the fact that a computer program was listed as a co-author.

By the same token, no one outside Newell, Simon, and Shaw seemed to initially recognize exactly what the Logic Theorist represented, including the other attendees of the Dartmouth Conference, who seemed unimpressed that someone had already written the computer program the conference was designed to create. Still, that didn't stop the creators of the Logic Theorist from enjoying distinguished careers.

Newell developed a so-called Unified Theory of Cognition, which is one of the foremost models of AI design today. He also shared the Turing Medal for distinction in AI research with Simon. For his part, Simon won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his concepts of bounded rationality. And as for J. C. Shaw, the only computer programmer who actually worked on the Logic Theorist? He's now in the history books for coding the first artificial intelligence ever written.

That's not just a cognitively commendable code-monkeying; it's a synthetically self-aware slice of semi-simulated Geek Trivia.

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About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

11 comments
dpickren
dpickren

Joseph? John? Charlie? Don't tell me there are no geeks out there that associate "McCarthy" with "Jenny". I mean, there are tonnes more webpages for her than the other 3 combined. Have I just lost my geekness?

sboverie
sboverie

The article started off with the name McCarthy associated with Sen Joe McCarthy and brought up John McCarthy as the geek minded association with the name McCarthy. Curiously, I think if Charlie McCarthy the dummy in a ventriloquist act. Charlie McCarthy is also an example of "artificial intelligence" in that the art of the ventriloquist was to fool people into thinking that the dummy was able to hold a conversation. Thanks for an interesting article on the early pioneers of AI.

Andy M
Andy M

I've gone over this ending several times to see if you were referring to something else, but it seems the object of your concluding sentence, "That?s not just a cognitively commendable code-monkeying; it?s a synthetically self-aware slice of semi-simulated Geek Trivia.", must be referring specifically to the Logic Theorist program. I see no indication that the Logic Theorist program was ever self-aware. Of course, if the sentence is about something else, then it's a great example of convoluted obfuscation. :P

K_Green
K_Green

Nope, I thought of her first too. And then Charlie. And then Joseph. All before I even read the name John. I also happen to have though of Andrew, the actor.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

As a self-professed Geek I have to admit that Charlie McCarthy was who I immediately thought of when the name McCarthy was mentioned!

dlrooky
dlrooky

Thank goodness. I thought I was going to be the only one who thought of Edgar Bergen, Charlie, and of course Mortimer Snerd.

FiOS-Dave
FiOS-Dave

Although not in quite the same category, I think of John Conway's "Game of Life." Classified as cellular automata, it does give the impression of arificial life. Since my "formal" education began around 1970, this was my first exposure to "artificial intelligence." For thos not familiar, please check Wikipedia for an excellent article on the subject. Dave

jbehounek
jbehounek

I doubt he's referring to the Logic Theorist program. He's simply using alliteration to creatively wrap up the article.

twistedg
twistedg

was my first thought too. Then I threw up a little in my mouth. Lol Intresting article.

Andy M
Andy M

I'd normally agree with you, except for the term "code-monkeying". I see no way that his article would be considered "code-monkeying", while that phrase is applied to the product or act of writing computer programs. That term provides the core of the sentence, so I see no way to apply it to the article.

Litehouse
Litehouse

Oh man, you're ruining his fun!

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