The Philosophy of AI and the AI of Philosophy- Professor John McCarthy

Artificial intelligence (AI) has closer scientific connections with philosophy than do other sciences, because AI shares many concepts with philosophy, e.g. action, consciousness, epistemology (what it is sensible to say about the world), and even free will. This article treats the philosophy of AI but also analyzes some concepts common to philosophy and AI from the standpoint of AI.

The philosophy of X, where X is a science, involves philosophers analyzing the concepts of X and sometimes commenting on what concepts are or are not likely to be coherent. Artificial intelligence (AI) has closer scientific connections with philosophy than do other sciences, because AI shares many concepts with philosophy, e.g. action, consciousness, epistemology (what it is sensible to say about the world), and even free will. This article treats the philosophy of AI but also analyzes some concepts common to philosophy and AI from the standpoint of AI. The philosophy of X often involves advice to practitioners of X about what they can and cannot do.

We partly reverse the usual course and offer advice to philosophers, especially philosophers of mind. The AI point of view is that philosophical theories are useful to AI only if they don’t preclude human-level artificial systems and provide a basis for designing systems with beliefs, do reasoning, and plan. AI research has particularly emphasized formalizing the actions available in a situation and the consequences of taking each of several actions. In order to do this, AI has mainly dealt with simple approximations to phenomena.

A key problem for both AI and philosophy is understanding common sense knowledge and abilities. We treat the notion of the common sense informatic situation, the situation a person or computer program is in when the knowledge available is partial both as to observation and as to theory, and ill-defined concepts must be used. Concepts ill-defined in general may be precise in specialized contexts.

Contributions and Impact

John paved the way for the some of the worlds transformative technologies: programming languages, the Internet, the web, and robots. He conceived and developed time-sharing, invented the first programming language for symbolic computation LISP, and coined the term “Artificial Intelligence”. His key contributions were in human-level AI and commonsense reasoning. To discover more, search his scientific articles.

As shown by his numerous awards, John was, indeed, a scientific giant. He was driven by an insatiable desire to model human reasoning using computers. His devotion to computer science together with his expansive intellectual capabilities have ensured his place in history as the father of AI. This website is dedicated to his contributions and the impact of his ideas.

The casual vistor may gain the impression that John McCarthy was limited to the study of scientific advancement. However, to those who knew him John was so much more than a gifted scientist. He had the curiosity and playfulness of a child, and lived life to the fullest. He flew planes, climbed mountains, and traveled to the Soviet Union and China in the 1960s and 70s at a time when it was a major challenge

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