A Peek Into AI History: The First AI Program
Logic Theorist is often regarded as the first or second AI program and sparked a revolution in computer science.
4 min read
The history of artificial intelligence(AI) is full of bigger-than-life characters and fascinating breakthroughs. The same year that the term AI was coined at the Dartmouth College summer AI conference, a group of future AI legends wrote what is considered the first AI program.
Have you heard of the Logic Theorist? This groundbreaking invention sparked a revolution in the history of computer science. Often regarded as the first AI program ( at least one of the first two 😉 ), it was authored by Allen Newell, J.C. Shaw and Herbert A. Simon to validate the thesis that computers could simulate human-like reasoning. Ambitious goal is we considered that is was written in 1956. What?????
Herbert Simon (left) and Allen Newell (right)
It all began in the early 1950s when Herbert Simon, while consulting for RAND Corporation, stumbled upon a printing machine that could print out maps using letters and symbols as representation. This experience sparked an idea in his mind — what if a machine could simulate decision-making and attain the level of human thought? That’s when Simon had an epiphany and the concept of automated thinking was born.
Around the same time, Allen Newell, a RAND Corporation scientist studying logistics and organization theory, was captivated by a presentation on pattern matching. He realized that even a simple programmable unit could accomplish complex behaviors that mirrored human intelligence. Simon and Newell then began discussing the possibility of teaching machines to think, leading to the birth of a program that could prove mathematical theorems like those in Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica. The goal was to create a program that could think like a human mathematician.
To develop the program, Newell enlisted the help of John Clifford Shaw, a computer programmer from RAND. Shaw wrote the codes for the Logic Theorist using an early version of IPL, a programming language that ran on a computer…