The Voice of the Turtle: Whatever Happened to AI?

  • Douglas B. Lenat Cycorp


On March 27, 2006, I gave a light-hearted and occasionally bittersweet presentation on “Whatever Happened to AI?” at the Stanford Spring Symposium presentation – to a lively audience of active AI researchers and formerly-active ones (whose current inaction could be variously ascribed to their having aged, reformed, given up, redefined the problem, etc.)  This article is a brief chronicling of that talk, and I entreat the reader to take it in that spirit: a textual snapshot of a discussion with friends and colleagues, rather than a scholarly article. I begin by whining about the Turing Test, but only for a thankfully brief bit, and then get down to my top-10 list of factors that have retarded progress in our field, that have delayed the emergence of a true strong AI.

Author Biography

Douglas B. Lenat, Cycorp
Doug Lenat has worked in diverse parts of AI – natural language understanding and generation, automatic program synthesis, expert systems, machine learning, etc. – for going on 40 years now, just long enough to dare to write this article.  His 1976 Stanford PhD thesis, AM, demonstrated that creative discoveries in mathematics could be produced by a computer program (a theorem proposer, rather than a theorem prover) guided by a corpus of hundreds of heuristic rules for deciding which experiments to perform and judging “interestingness” of their outcomes. That work earned him the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award, and sparked a renaissance in machine learning research. Dr. Lenat was on the CS faculty at CMU and Stanford, was one of the founders of Teknowledge, and was in the first batch of AAAI Fellows.  He worked with Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold to launch Microsoft Research Labs, and to this day he remains the only person to have served on the technical advisory boards of both Apple and Microsoft. Since 1984, he and his team have been constructing, experimenting with, and applying a broad real world knowledge base and reasoning engine, collectively ";Cyc";. For ten years he did this as the Principal Scientist of MCC, and since 1994 as the CEO of Cycorp. He is on the technical advisory board of TTI Vanguard, and his interest and experience in national security has led him to regularly consult for several U.S. agencies and the White House. He edits J. Applied Artificial Intelligence and J. Applied Ontology, and has authored three books, almost 100 refereed articles, and one almost-refereed article, namely this one.