September 25, 2020
This week in The History of AI at AIWS.net – the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence was proposed. The proposal was submitted on September 2, 1955, but written on August 31, 1955. It was the collaboration of John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude Shannon, who would all go on to become important AI pioneers. John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky came from academic backgrounds (Dartmouth and Harvard respectively). On the other hand, Nathaniel Rochester (IBM) and Claude Shannon (Bell Telephones) were tied to corporations.
This proposal was the first instance of the phrase Artificial Intelligenc being used officially. The document names direct some aspects of AI – automatic computer, how can a computer can be programmed to use a language, neuron nets, theory of the size of calculation, self improvements, and randomness and creativity. The research proposal asked for funding from sources such as the Rockefeller Foundation. Their estimated cost was $13,500 (not calculated for inflation)
The document called for a “2 month, 10-man study of Artificial Intelligence” in the summer of 1956 (the year following this document’s publication) at Dartmouth College. During this study, researchers will try to connect computer and information sciences with the brain. Each originator of the document wrote their own research proposal.
This event marks one of the beginnings of AI – the conception of what AI is and AI could be. It is the prelude to the big event of AI, the Dartmouth Conference. Without a seminal source like this, AI would not exist or may have taken a different direction entirely. The program, History of AI, owes a debt to the document.
A PDF of this proposal can be found here.