Artificial intelligence (AI) researcher John McCarthy has passed away at the age of 84.
McCarthy invented the computer language known as LISP, which uses symbolic expressions, rather than numbers, and was subsequently adopted as the programming language of choice for AI.
The researcher also coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” in 1955 for the first Dartmouth conference.
“I came up with the name when I had to write the proposal to get research support for the conference from the Rockefeller Foundation,” he told CNET back in 2006.
“And to tell you the truth, the reason for the name is, I was thinking about the participants rather than the funder.”
McCarthy firmly believed 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.
“If a machine can do a job, then an automatic calculator can be programmed to simulate the machine,” he wrote in a 1955 research proposal on the topic
“The speeds and memory capacities of present computers may be insufficient to simulate many of the higher functions of the human brain, but the major obstacle is not lack of machine capacity, but our inability to write programs taking full advantage of what we have.”
Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC that McCarthy was “foundational” in the creation of the discipline of Artificial Intelligence.
“John McCarthy’s main contribution to AI was his founding of the field of knowledge representation and reasoning, which was the main focus of his research over the last 50 years,” said Sharkey.
“He believed that this was the best approach to developing intelligent machines and was disappointed by the way the field seemed to have turned into high speed search on very large databases.”