The Lisp approach to AI (Part 1)

Sebastian Valencia
Feb 28, 2017 · 10 min read
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Common Lisp code to create an n-inputs m-units one layer perceptron. Taken from the code of AIMA, a classic textbook in Artificial Intelligence. The whole code here.

Lisp has jokingly been called the most intelligent way to misuse a computer. I think that description is a great compliment because it transmits the full flavor of liberation: it has assisted a number of our most gifted fellow humans in thinking previously impossible thoughts.

Although my own previous enthusiasm has been for syntactically rich languages, like the Algol family, I now see clearly and concretely the force of Minsky’s 1970 Turing Lecture, in which he argued that Lisp’s uniformity of structure and power of self reference gave the programmer capabilities whose content was well worth the sacrifice of visual form.

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Some CS celebrities that have treated Lisp as a miracle (sometimes). A venture capitalist, a musician, Dijkstra’s algorithm inventor, and Robert Floyd (he was highly appreciated by Donald Knuth).

The Lisp approach to AI

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John McCarthy, the inventor of the term “Artificial Intelligence”, the inventor of garbage collection, and the inventor of Lisp. Marvin Minsky, the founder of the AI lab at MIT.
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A typical conversation between a human and ELIZA. The paper that introduced the program is called ELIZA — A Computer Program for the Study of Natural Language Communication between Man and Machine
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A very simple session in MACSYMA.
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A sample session in SHRDLU. The program was supposed to understand and execute actions told by a human in natural language.

Lisp in the real world

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Some of the projects/companies whose stack has included Lisp.

If Lisp if so great, Why TensorFlow’s main language isn’t Lisp?

Exploring AI with Lisp

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AI Society

Artificial Intelligence Hacking Group

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