Foolproof and Incapable of Error: RIP John McCarthy

Image: Wikipedia

Perhaps it’s just me, but it’s beginning to seem lately as though we are coming to the end of an era, or is it the dawn of a new one? This week I was saddened to hear of the death of John McCarthy, a pioneer in the field of Artificial Intelligence — he coined the term. McCarthy invented the computer language LISP — LISt Processing — which is still used today in AI circles, and is the second oldest high level programming language. During the first Dartmouth conference in 1956 he, and his fellow organizers, came with the notion that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

To be honest, there are aspects of Artificial Intelligence that give me caution, but it is the minds behind the ideas that I find intriguing. The imagination that takes the work of scientists one step further, the offbeat notion that takes something statistical and creates from it.

With the death of Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie and now John McCarthy all in a matter of weeks, I am left wondering where technology will take us in the next 20 years, and who will be leading us there.

[Thanks to Sarah Pinault at GeekMom!]

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