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>  News Releases >   2006 >   July

Dartmouth receives grant from DARPA to support AI@50 conference

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/06/06 • Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661

Dartmouth has received a $200,000 grant from DARPA—the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—for AI@50, the Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence Conference: The Next Fifty Years, to be held July 13-15.

Philosophy professor James Moor, conference director, commented, "DARPA's contribution empowers us to take the broadest look ahead into AI's future with a focus on those models and methodologies likely to yield progress as well as achievements in specific areas such as learning, vision, reasoning, search, natural language, and cognition." According to Moor, in today's world of technology, that translates into such outcomes as AI winning at chess, assisting in neurosurgery, translating Arabic, and gathering vital intelligence for national security.

Besides providing this significant support for AI@50, Moor said, funds from the DARPA grant will also bring 25 recent Ph.D.'s and post docs to join the 31 world-renowned AI researchers who comprise the conference panels. "It puts them right at today's starting gate," he added, "with the world's leading AI thinkers."

George Cybenko, the Dorothy and Walter Gramm professor of engineering, originally proposed this added cadre of young AI scholars, as principal investigator for the DARPA grant. "Not only will their participation be helpful in launching their research careers," he stated, "but having newly minted Ph.D.'s contribute to the deliberations here is completely in the spirit of the original meeting."

That first meeting on AI at "The Dartmouth Research Project on Artificial Intelligence," took place fifty years ago, in July and August of 1956. "Back then," Cybenko said, "those first-ever discussions were driven by equally young researchers who had an enormous vested interest in the future of AI."

Those young researchers became AI's foremost thinkers, and five of those who survive from the 1956 conclave—Marvin Minsky, Ray Solomonoff, Oliver Selfridge, Trenchard More, and John McCarthy—will gather at Dartmouth's AI@50 conference to recall those early AI days.

"The 1940s and 1950s were remarkable decades of scientific and technical activity in a variety of areas closely related to AI," said Cybenko, "largely brought on by the increasing availability of digital computers." In fact, the field was so crowded that McCarthy, then 28 and an assistant math professor at Dartmouth, felt compelled to come up with a new name that would better encapsulate their ultimate ambition to simulate human intelligence. He coined the phrase "artificial intelligence," and first used it to apply for a Rockefeller Foundation grant to fund the 1956 conference.

DARPA has requested an AI@50 report developed from the conference proceedings that will:

  • analyze progress on AI's original challenges during the first 50 years, and assess whether the challenges were "easier" or "harder" than originally thought and, why;
  • document what the AI@50 participants believe are the major research and development challenges facing this field over the next 50 years, and identify what breakthroughs will be needed to meet those challenges;
  • relate those challenges and breakthroughs against developments and trends in other areas such as control theory, signal processing, information theory, statistics, and optimization theory.

DARPA has also asked the AI@50 participants to "focus on U.S. defense and homeland security needs while factoring in future consumer and industrial developments that can be leveraged to help meet those needs." As part of the conference, Charles Holland, director of the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office, will lead a panel discussion about the role of AI in the development of future intelligence technology.

Along with DARPA, other AI@50 contributors include the Office of the Dean of the Faculty and the Office of the Provost, both at Dartmouth, and the Frederick Whittemore Foundation and the General Electric Foundation. DARPA's support for AI@50 does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the U.S. government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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