John McCarthy didn’t single-handedly invent what we now know widely as Artificial Intelligence, aka robot brains, but he did coin the term back in 1956 and is certainly one of the founders of the A.I. research field. Not only this, McCarthy was also a professor at Stanford University and a PhD in mathematics. The creator of the programming language Lisp passed away this week at the ripe old age of no less than 84 years.
The creators of the robot race shall never die, so is their legacy and their contribution to the eternal memory of mankind. This fellow was the first to propose and support the idea of selling computers in a sort of time-sharing way in which both applications and computing power could be sold like utilities – yes, the utilities you’re thinking of, water, electricity, etcetera. You know that term “cloud computing”? That’s right along the same lines. He’s been a frequenter of Usenet forums working with enthusiasts around the world for several years, and he wrote a rather interesting story in 2001 by the name of “The Robot and the Baby” which explored the possibility of robots having emotions. A good read if you get a minute to take a look.
John McCarthy also kept up a rather rudimentary looking webpage from 1995 through 2007, and though it shows the doctor’s obvious unwillingness to succumb to Web 2.0 and the blog age, it does truly show the bulk of the work he’d done in one mass. At http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/index.html you’ll find the page which includes links to the many papers and awards McCarthy’d won, and at his [commentary] page you’ll find the closest thing McCarthy ever made to a blog format collection of words. This too ends several years before his death, the last entry dated at June 20, 2008.
Farewell McCarthy, may you continue to hypothesize in whatever beyond you believe in.