Artificial Intelligence pioneer John McCarthy dies

October 25, 2011

John McCarthy, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, has died at the age of 84, the Stanford School of Engineering announced.

McCarthy, who died on Sunday, was a professor emeritus in the Department of Computer Science at the Palo Alto, California-based university, where he taught for nearly four decades.

McCarthy is credited with coining the term "," or AI, in a 1955 research proposal he submitted with several other scientists while at Dartmouth College.

The research proposal called for a study into "how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves."

McCarthy was the creator of the LISP programming language widely used by AI researchers.

He joined the faculty of Stanford in 1962 and founded the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL), which has been credited with a number of advances in the field of making "."

According to the Stanford University website, the first challenge undertaken by SAIL scientists was to "design robots able to successfully interact with the physical world."

In an online profile of McCarthy, Stanford quoted him as saying in a 2003 presentation that computers eventually will achieve "human-level" intelligence.

"Understanding intelligence is a difficult scientific problem, but lots of difficult scientific problems have been solved," he said. "There's nothing humans can do that humans can't make computers do."

McCarthy, who retired from Stanford in 2000, was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the .

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6 comments

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Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2011
John McCarthy once told me that Crop yield reductions caused by increased UV exposure by plants - resulting from a decrease in the earth's ozone levels, could be "easily" corrected by covering all of Europe in a layer of thin plastic wrap.

He also publicly stated that he would eat 1 gram of plutonium if the government would provide him with a sample.

He maintained that the world could comfortably sustain a human population of 15 billion people at U.S. levels of consumptive inefficiency if 2,500 new nuclear reactors were built globally - a number that is 100 times smaller than the actual value.

McCarthy lamented the fact that he could not store nuclear waste in his own home or on his own private property.

McCarthy also tried to popularize the concept of "ear flaps" to prevent people from hearing ideas that they didn't like.

McCarthy also had odd ideas about the value of life, at one point comparing an algae bloom to the fish kill that it caused, and concluding that since there cont
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2011
that since there was vastly more algae than fish, the algae bloom was and a lake devoid of fish was the preferred state.

I have little respect for the opinions held by John McCarthy - former fellow of the Right Wing Hoover Institution. But I do respect the thickness of the intellectual integrity he usually employed on top of his failed Conservative Ideology.

Even in Computer Science, ultimately McCarthy was a failure. Lisp has produced nothing of value - except - and this is an important exception - as proof that contrary to McCarthy's beliefs, intelligence will not emerge from systems that employ strictly high level logical constructs.

Just last week I was wondering how many days McCarthy had left.

Unlike the death of Ritchie - creator of C - I will NOT drink a toast in honor of John McCarthy's death.

It is not necessary as his existence is mostly irrelevant.
gopalakr
not rated yet Oct 25, 2011
John McCarthy doesn't need any endorsements. Just look at the list of his students -> likes of Barbara Liskov and Raj Reddy.

And as an academic grandchild of his, I've heard only great things about him. LISP isn't a failure, functional programming is just a stage of the evolution.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
"LISP isn't a failure." - qopalakr

Lisp isn't a failure in the same sense that tying paper wings onto a turtle to make a bird isn't a failure. It didn't work and provides a wonderful example of how not to do things.

I don't discredit McCarthy for having tried to create AI via an approach employing formal logic. Back in the early days of machine decision, the ignorance was astonishing.

We have largely learned from the failure of languages like Lisp.

Of course, there are some fools who never learn.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
"Barbara Liskov" - qopalakr

CLU?

Too bad it didn't work out as well as CLU did in Tron.

Jagadeesh
not rated yet Oct 26, 2011
Yet another computer Giant passes this moth,First Steve Jobs then Dr.Dennis Ritchie and Now Dr.Dr. John McCarthy. Dr.John McCarthy was a great visionary .

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh21011

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