John McCarthy, Father of Artificial Intelligence Dies at 84
October 26, 2011 6:44 AM
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McCarthy coined the term "artificial intelligence" and created the AI programming language LISP
Computer scientist John McCarthy, who is one of the fathers of
and even coined the term, died Sunday at the age of 84.
McCarthy, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1927, found his passion for artificial intelligence in 1948, and coined the term "artificial intelligence" in 1955 in a proposal for the 1956 Dartmouth Conference.
He is also well known for inventing the programming language LISP in 1958 while at MIT. This programming language has become the main language for artificial intelligence work.
In addition, McCarthy was one of the co-founders of the first artificial intelligence laboratory at MIT. He also founded the AI laboratory at Stanford University, where he was a professor of computer science.
McCarthy is considered one of the fathers of AI for the development of LISP, even though he never took credit for inventing artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, his language is used widely in the field and only one other AI language is older than LISP, and that's Fortran, which is only one year older.
McCarthy dedicated his life to making machines that could learn
similar to the way humans learn
, and act accordingly. McCarthy attempted problems such as whether it was beneficial or moral to give free will, knowledge, abilities, beliefs and consciousness to a machine.
"I started my work in artificial intelligence in about '56, although I became really interested in it before that, in '49, when I was a beginning graduate student in mathematics," said McCarthy in an interview for the book "Thinking Allowed: Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove." "I would say that the field has made somewhat less progress than I hoped, although I didn't have any definite opinion as to how fast it would progress. I think that it had and still has difficult conceptual problems to solve before we can get computer programs that are as intelligent as humans."
McCarthy graduated from Caltech in 1948 and then received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton in 1951. He married three times, and received a Turing award in 1971, Japan's Kyoto Prize in 1988, and America's National Medal of Science in 1990.
Artificial intelligence can be seen in many of today's research and gadgets. For instance, IBM is in the midst of
developing neurosynaptic chips for cognitive computing
, which were inspired by neurobiology and consist of an integrated memory (mimicking synapses), communication (mimicking axons) and computation (mimicking neurons).
In addition, just today, a
new thermostat called Nest
was announced and has the ability to learn about its homeowners and make adjustments to the temperature accordingly.
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Great man, great mind.
10/27/2011 3:20:20 PM
Unfortunately his passing will be a small footnote in our Lady Gaga obsessed trash media instead of the widespread recognition of an extraordinary life of great discovery, continual innovation and exploration of new ideas and ways of thinking about our world and our interactions in it. RIP, you lived a great life!
RE: Great man, great mind.
10/31/2011 8:56:51 AM
Yep, John McCarthy and Dennis Ritchie did far, far, far more to advance science and technology than Steve Jobs, yet the masses have never heard of them.
RE: Great man, great mind.
11/13/2011 2:28:37 AM
Steve Jobs did a lot. He brought a lot of money into the system. He may have not been the pioneer, but he brought it to the masses.
I think it's a shame that Steve Jobs died when he did. I think he was really only getting started. Another 20 years... it's hard to imagine what he would have accomplished. Textbooks were next on his list. Makes sense: first build the iPad, then create a new system for learning that's far easier to access than what we have now...
It's no doubt that Ritchie and McCarthy have been fundamental to the development of technology. But it took a guy like Steve Jobs to really make it useful to the rest of us. We might enjoy Windows, but if not for Jobs buying the tech and reengineering it as something affordable for the middle class was no small feat either, and no less important.
"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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