The Machine that Changed the World (1992) BBC

Episode IV - The Thinking Machine

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Video Description

Episode IV -- The Thinking Machine.

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

Late 1950s - Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy set up an A.I. Dept. at MIT.

1960 - Slagel's program for freshman calculus; from "number crunching" to intelligent problem solving.

Mind vs. Brain approach; mind = software, brain = hardware. (The notion that a thinking computer need not be modeled on the actual biology of the brain is in vogue.)

Block stacking program - lack of "common sense."

1970 - Edinburgh University, "Freddie" image recognition application.

1970s - Stanford Kart; motion planning. (Huge computational resources and time required to navigate through a room which a four year old child can do in real time.)

Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA.

Russian to English language translator - earliest of the non-numerical applications. (Hype not lived up to.)

Underestimation of the difficulty of A.I. (Tasks difficult for humans are found easy for computers and vice versa. Computers lack background knowledge.)

Future of A.I. looks bleak - Dreyfus' "What Computers Can't Do."

Terry Winograd's SHRDLU - intelligence within microworlds.

Expert Systems - Feigenbaum's DENDRAL. (Deep but very narrow areas of specialisation. Expert systems found to be "brittle.")

"Idiot savants."

Early 1970s - story understanding via scripts and frames. (Minsky.)

Modeling commonsense. (Children possess broad and shallow knowledge. People learn by extending the fringe of what they already know, therefore computers make bad pupils as they lack "basic knowledge.")

1984 - Lenat's ten-year CYC project to catalogue "commonsense." (Create an encyclopedia of commonsense basic knowledge.)

A new look at modeling intelligence by modeling the biological brain.

1950s and 1960s - Perceptrons. (an article by Michele Estebon, CS 3604, 1997).

Late 1970s - Neural networks; Connectionists.

Self-driven vehicle - "trained" to drive.

Selective training - tank recognition failure.


Large networks require large training times.

Brain - a collection of special purpose machines --> general intelligence/ commonsense.

A.I. - history of fascinating failures.

Documentary Description

The Machine that Changed the World (1992)

The Machine that Changed the World (1992) is a 5-episode television series on the history of electronic digital computers. It was written and directed by Nancy Linde, and produced by WGBH Television of Boston, Massachusetts, and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Backers included the Association for Computing Machinery, the National Science Foundation, and the UNISYS Corporation.

The first three episodes deal with the history of fully electronic general-purpose digital computers from the ENIAC through desktop microcomputers. The pre-history of such machines is examined in the first episode ("Giant Brains"), and includes a discussion of the contributions of Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, and others. The fourth episode ("The Thinking Machine") explores the topic of artificial intelligence. The fifth episode ("The World at Your FIngertips") explores the then-newly-emerging worldwide networking of computers. All episodes begin and end with a song by Peter Howell, "Stellae matutinae radius exoritur" ("The morning star's ray arises").

   Episode 1, "Giant Brains" at alternate link
   Episode 2, "Inventing the Future", at alternate link
   Episode 3, "The Paperback Computer", at alternate link
   Episode 4, "The Thinking Machine", at alternate link
   Episode 5, "The World at Your Fingertips", at alternate link


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