Computer Conservation Society


A Seminar, 11th October 2002, 2.30pm
Science Museum Director's Suite

Artificial Intelligence
Recollections of the Pioneers

"Artificial Intelligence" has been an objective for computer workers from Alan Turing onwards. Its pursuit has led to valuable application systems, and to theories of the working of the human brain, but also to great controversy and disputation. Four pioneers from various stages of the development will discuss the history, the achievements and the potential future.

Left to Right: George Davis, Austin Tate, Jim Doran, Aaron Sloman and Brian Oakley - inset Donald Michie - Image 1, Image 2.

Donald Michie NSW University of Technology        The very early days

Interested in AI from 1942, Donald Michie conceived, founded and directed the UK's first AI laboratory at Edinburgh, and has since been active in AI projects around the World. Originally envisaged as co-organiser and leader of this Seminar, he was grounded in Sydney by his doctors, and will now make his contribution on video. His talk will cover the period from 1942, when Alan Turing was a colleague at Bletchley Park, up to 1965, when the Edinburgh AI laboratory was truly launched. He will cover the theories, the practice, the personalities and the politics, and on past form may be expected to do so without pulling any punches. Presentation PDF (128KB), MPEG4 Format - 35 minutes,

Jim Doran Essex University        Edinburgh & Essex - the past & the future for AI

Jim Doran will first talk about his time, from 1964 to 1969, as a Junior Research Fellow in the Edinburgh Experimental Programming Unit directed by Donald Michie, and give some insight into the scientific objectives of the group, and into the adventurous and combative atmosphere of those early days. Then he will describe the early development of the Essex AI group, founded by Tony Brooker in about 1972, which also became one of the leading UK AI centres. Finally he will offer some remarks about the history of AI in the UK from the thirties until today. What were the key developments, what caused them, and how much scientific progress have we really made?' Presentation PDF (920KB), PowerPoint (912KB).

Aaron Sloman Birmingham University        AI and the study of mind

One motivation for AI from the days of Turing and the other founders was to study, understand and model the human mind, but the early researchers proved grossly over-optimistic. The research has revealed previously unnoticed subtleties in human, and animal, mental activities, such as the processing of visual signals, and that computer models can prove unhuman in unexpected ways. However, developments over the last ten to fifteen years in parallel disciplines indicate better prospects for the future. Presentation PDF (77KB).

Austin Tate AIAI, University of Edinburgh       Putting AI to Use

From the earliest days of AI, a number of important languages, computer systems and applications "shells" have been created and applied. Drawing on his own experience from the late 1960s to the present day, the speaker will cover some of the earliest AI-related company startups, the international distribution of early interactive computer systems and AI-inspired languages, and novel approaches to industry-education cooperation and technology transfer pioneered by University groups in the UK around the time of the UK Alvey R&D programme in the early 1980s. Presentation PDF (3.8MB), PowerPoint (32.2MB).

Enquiries to George Davis <> +44 (0)20 8681 7784