John McCarthy Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford University was in the audience at the Hard AI Future Salon the other month. Which was excellent, after all he coined the term Artificial Intelligence and also wrote the language Lisp, which Paul Graham of Hackers and Painters fame describes:
In 1960, John McCarthy published a remarkable paper in which he did for programming something like what Euclid did for geometry. He showed how, given a handful of simple operators and a notation for functions, you can build a whole programming language. He called this language Lisp, for "List Processing," because one of his key ideas was to use a simple data structure called a list for both code and data. [more]
John liked our Future Salon format so much, that he agreed to talk about something that is near and dear to his heart: The Sustainability of Material Progress at the Future Salon on Thursday 25th of May 6pm SAP Palo Alto. [Future Salon Wiki with collection of background links]
Please RSVP now
Over the centuries and up to the present the condition of humanity has improved with increased longevity, reduced infant mortality, better nutrition, and more choices in occupation, material goods, and recreation.
This improvement includes both advanced and backward countries. Questions have been raised about whether this improvement can continue and whether the backward countries can advance to the level of the present advanced countries to which so many of their citizens migrate.
Many phenomena have been suggested as obstacles to further material progress. This lecture deals with several problems that have been
raised: energy, minerals, food supply, soil degradation, fresh water supply, pollution, waste disposal, population growth, disease, natural catastrophes, forests, global warming. None of them, except possibly war or social stagnation, is likely to prevent further material progress.
Whether optimism or pessimism is warranted by the facts has always been contentious, but who takes which position is often determined by non-rational considerations.
These points are elaborated on the web site www.formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress.
John McCarthy is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford University. His professional work has been in artificial intelligence and other branches of computer science. His work includes Lisp, time-sharing, logical AI, proving programs correct and personal use of computers.
He has long studied human progress and starting in 1995 has developed a web site arguing that progress is sustainable; The pages have so far got about one million hits.
A Future Salon has the following structure: 6-7 networking with light refreshments proudly sponsored by SAP. From 7-9+ pm presentation and discussion. SAP Labs North America, Building D, Room Southern Cross, 3410 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304 [map] As always free and open to the public. Improve your commute by sharing it with a fellow Futurist. Check the Ride Board for opportunities. Free and open to the public. Please RSVP, so we can get enough food and drinks.