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Artificial Intelligence: Past, Present, and Future

Fifty years ago this summer, a small group of scientists gathered for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, which was the birth of this field of research. To celebrate the anniversary, more than 100 researchers and scholars again met at Dartmouth for AI@50, a conference that not only honored the past and assessed present accomplishments, but also helped seed ideas for future artificial intelligence research.

The 1956 meeting was organized by John McCarthy, then a mathematics professor at the College. In his proposal, he stated that the conference was "to proceed on the basis of the conjecture 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."

Five of the attendees of the 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence reunited at the July AI@50 conference. From left: Trenchard More, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Oliver Selfridge, and Ray Solomonoff. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Professor of Philosophy James Moor, the director of AI@50, says that the researchers who came to Hanover 50 years ago thought about ways to make machines more cognizant, and they wanted to lay out a framework to better understand human intelligence.

Carol Folt, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a professor of biological sciences, says of AI@50, "It is fitting that the research field of artificial intelligence, which attracts bright, imaginative scholars who work without thought to disciplinary boundaries, has its roots 50 years ago at Dartmouth, where innovation and interdisciplinarity have long been highly valued. It is a pleasure to host this conference and welcome a new generation of AI scholars to the field."

Provost Barry Scherr, the Mandel Family Professor of Russian, adds, "The success of the 1956 workshop was the spirit it engendered. The continuing accomplishments in the years since have proven that the field of AI remains vital and filled with promise. I hope that the AI@50 participants enjoyed recalling the early years of AI at the same time that they were helping to develop a road map for future avenues of study."

In addition to hearing from some of AI's founders about the beginning of the field, the conference participants delved into topics such as the future model of thinking, the future of language and cognition, AI and games, and the future of reasoning.


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Last Updated: 12/17/08