Intelligence is not Artificial

by piero scaruffi

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(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence/ Part 1

The first influential conference for designers of intelligent machines took place in 1955 in Los Angeles: the Western Joint Computer Conference. At this conference Allen Newell and Herbert Simon presented the "Logic Theory Machine", Newell also presented his "Chess Machine", Walter Pitts' housemate Oliver Selfridge gave a talk on "Pattern Recognition and Modern Computers", and Wesley Clark and Belmont Farley reported the first computer simulations of a neural network ("Generalization of Pattern Recognition in a Self-organizing System").

Then in 1956 John McCarthy organized the conference at Dartmouth College that gave Artificial intelligence its name (called "Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence"). The 1955 proposal was also signed by his friend Marvin Minsky (then at Harvard University), Claude Shannon (the Bell Labs scientist who had published "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" in 1948 and trained both McCarthy and Minsky in 1953), and Nathaniel Rochester (the IBM scientist who had designed the IBM 701 of 1952, considered the first mass-produced computer, and who was toying with neural networks on the new IBM 704). Minsky, McCarthy and Ray Solomonoff where the only scientists who attended the whole summer workshop of two months (June 18 to August 17). Ray Solomonoff was president of a sci-fi club at the University of Chicago. Others who attended were: Claude Shannon, Julian Bigelow, Warren McCulloch, Oliver Selfridge, Ross Ashby, Arthur Samuel, Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, and nine more. Wiener was not there because the workshop was meant as a reaction against cybernetics: this group, mainly driven by Newell and Simon, wanted to found a new discipline of symbolic information processing. Turing had committed suicide two years earlier (1954) and didn't live to witness the use of the term "artificial intelligence". Note that there was no inherent need to invent a new term for the discipline that Wiener (also at the MIT at the same time) had already coined "Cybernetics". McCarthy was trying to make a point that his "Artificial Intelligence", unlike Wiener's Cybernetics, was to be based on mathematical logic, not on engineering. But today the term "Artificial Intelligence" has stuck, and we use it also for projects (such as neural networks) that perhaps, historically speaking, should be more appropriately referred to as Cybernetics.

That seems to have been a particularly fertile time for young people with revolutionary ideas. The plan for that conference matured in August 1955, a few days after the London premiere of Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot" (originally written in French), a month after Chuck Berry started the vogue for rock'n'roll with his single "Maybellene" (July 1955), a month after Miles Davis performed with Thelonious Monk at the Newport Jazz Festival and became the new rising star of jazz music, a few weeks after RCA Victor released a box-set featuring four records of electronic music, "The Sounds and Music of the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer" (the synthesizer had been built by Harry Olson and Herbert Belar at RCA's Princeton labs), two months after Billy Wilder's film "The Seven Year Itch" launched Marilyn Monroe as the ultimate sex symbol, and five months after Richard Brooks' film "Blackboard Jungle" depicted the lives of juvenile delinquents (and the soundtrack's "Rock Around the Clock", performed by Bill Haley & His Comets, was becoming an anthem for young rebels). One year earlier, in 1954, Edgar Varese had inaugurated electronic tape music with "Deserts", (1954), the Russian-born illustrator Boris Artzybasheff had published "As I See", a book of visionary drawings about the post-human society (humanized machines and/or cyborgs), and Gyorgy Kepes was working on his book "The New Landscape in Art and Science", mixing pictures of modern art with images obtained from x-ray machines, electron microscopes, sonars, radars, telescopes and infrared sensors. It was a time of upheaval: one month later William Shockley would found the first startup of Silicon Valley, three months later the "beat" poet Allen Ginsberg would recite his poem "Howl" in San Francisco, and four months later Martin Luther King would start a civil-rights movement (sparked by the arrest of a black woman, Rosa Parks, who refused to give her seat to white folks). An era ended when Charlie Parker died in March 1955, Albert Einstein died in April, Winston Churchill retired in April, and Thomas Mann died in August.

In 1956 McCarthy also co-edited with Claude Shannon a volume on "Automata Studies" that included papers continuing the mission of the McCulloch-Pitts neuron. by Ross Ashby, Pete Uttley, Minsky, VonNeumann, besides Shannon and McCarthy themselves. Notably, the volume contains "Some Uneconomical Robots" by the philosopher James Culbertson from the RAND Corporation (who had already published mathematical neural-network models in "A Mechanism for Optic Nerve Conduction and Form Perception" of 1948) and in "Hypothetical robots" of 1952) and a revised version of Stephen Kleene's "Representation of Events in Nerve Nets and Finite Automata" (originally published in 1951 also at RAND). Ross Ashby's paper "Design for an Intelligence-amplifier" even discussed how to generate creativity in machines.

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