User talk:Stephen G Graham

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Hi Steve, on the Ignatius article it wasn't actually a typo to say "reconverted". The Middle East was Christian before Mohammed's followers invaded the area in the 7th century. In the mind of Ignatius, as a Spaniard (see Reconquista), he desired to win back Jerusalem for Christianity and reconvert the local people there. Thanks. - Yorkshirian (talk) 14:41, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

"The Middle East was Christian" is obviously untrue. "The Middle East was largely under Christian Byzantine rule" is more correct. There undoubtedly was a Christian majority in Spain before the Islamic conquest (and, not coincidentally, after the reconquest), but the majority in what is now Palestine, Israel, Syria and so on practiced ancient tribal religions, like those of the prophet Mohammed and his people before his "divine revelation". Clearly the Jews would have had a substantial presence, and there would have been many Christians, but they were still a minority.

Of course, the idea that Ignatius imagined it as a reconquest is not at variance with historical fact.Steve Graham (talk) 18:16, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Birth of AI[edit]

I disagree with your recent edits to the History of AI section of the article on artificial intelligence. Before we go back and forth once more, I'd like to discuss it with you a bit.

First, I don't think it is true that Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy (computer scientist), Alan Newell and Herbert Simon were somehow less influential in the U.K. than they were in the U.S.. On the contrary, I think the research program they began (i.e. "artificial intelligence by means of high-level symbolic processing") was adopted world wide, and their publications and pronouncements determined the general direction of research in AI throughout the world until 1980 or so. (See {{McCorduck 2004}}, p. 129-130, where other researchers complain about the "hegemony" of the Dartmouth attendees.) So I think it's correct to say simply that "they were the leaders of AI research" and misleading to say that "they were the leaders of American AI research".

Second, I don't think it is correct to call Donald Michie's work in the middle 1960s "other research." This implies that it is somehow not a part of the research program that was started at Dartmouth; that it was somehow a different research program with a separate genesis. This seems wrong to me -- I think his work (and related projects at the University of Edinburgh) were very closely related to similar projects in the U.S.. I.e. Freddy the Robot and Shakey the Robot clearly had a lot in common. They both came from the same root. Like Newell & Simon's (1956) Logic theorist, they were coded in list-processing languages, they used means-ends analysis for planning and they created high level symbolic representations of the world. This is clearly the same research program. The fact that Michie worked in the U.K. does not somehow imply he was not working in the same field. I don't think there is a meaningful distinction between "U.S. AI" and "U.K. AI".

(And I apologize that my earlier version suggested that Edinburgh is in England. I was careless and hasty.) ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 07:10, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

Charles, thanks for the message. I originally edited the AI article becuase that one paragraph seemed unduly USA- and English-language-centric. The assertion that AI as an academic subject was conjured out of nothing -- fiat lux -- at this one event would be hard to defend objectively. I sought to soften that impression without downplaying the importance of the Dartmouth attendees. Referring to Michie's research as "other" was not meant to convey "different" but simply an example of "what else was going on in the world".Steve Graham (talk) 15:22, 5 September 2009 (UTC)
(Forgive me for copying your reply)
Well, the trouble I'm having is that the major sources don't quite agree with what we've got in the article now. {{Russell Norvig 2003}} (the leading AI textbook) calls Dartmouth "The birth of artificial intelligence (1956)" and says that "For the next 20 years the field would be dominated by these people and their students." {{Crevier 1993}} writes that ""the conference is generally recognized as the official birthdate of the new science." These sources don't suggest that Dartmouth's influence was mostly American. They suggest it was world wide.
(In fact, they don't bring up nationalism at all, which I think is appropriate when we're talking about science. Science doesn't tend to respect national boundaries very much. It doesn't really matter where the field was founded. In fact, as I said above, I think it is misleading to bring it up. If we say they were 'the leaders of American AI research', then he reader may ask "who led the rest of the world?" And the answer is that the rest of the world didn't fund AI laboratories until the mid 60s, and, when they did, research was mostly within paradigms set up by the Dartmouth crowd. But these details, of course, really don't belong in the article. So the article has this logical gap.)
Re fiat AI. One thing that is a bit confusing is that we are talking here about the birth of "the field of academic AI research." We're not talking about the birth of the "study of thinking machines" or (better) the birth of "modern ideas about how to build thinking machines." I suppose the distinction is a bit philosophical, really, but it explains on a deeper level what our major sources mean when they say "the birth of AI". The field of academic AI research is a social institution: it has buildings, funding, staff, publications and so on. Social institutions are, in fact, often "founded" at particular points in time by particular people. The "study of thinking machines", on the other hand, actually goes back to antiquity, as this article points out and the history of AI article goes into in detail. ("The birth of modern ideas about how to build thinking machines" is either Pitts & McCullough's neurons (1943) or Turing (1950). These are discussed in history of AI, but I felt that we really didn't have room for these in AI's one page summary.)
I'm not sure if I've convinced you, but I'm going to go ahead and hit the article now, on the strength of the sources. Thanks for bringing up an interesting issue and spurring me to do a bit more research. Let me know if it still bothers you. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 06:46, 7 September 2009 (UTC)