Howard Cannon on the Emergence of AI Tools in the 1980s and lesson’s learned

Image is from the Steven Rosenberg blog on Symbolics.

Given all the excitement around ‘consumer AI’ news starting in late 2022, I thought it would be great fun and valuable to speak with Howard Cannon. I worked with Howard throughout the 1980s while working at Symbolics. I know this article isn’t’ make much sense yet. Follow me on this introduction process. The 1980s were a supremely exciting time of rapid AI development and finding entirely new ways of thinking about the impact of AI tools and applications. And so, here we are again in 2023!

This interview provides insights into the 1980s AI decade and its impact on the software development tools and AI apps we use today.

Key Points:
Lessons learned and how we might apply them to the new AI tools and products.

We talk about technology advancements, comparing them to the shift from stenographers to administrative assistants due to the advent of word processors and how we will adapt now.

We discuss the emergence of neural networks and expert systems.

We discuss the idea of productivity and increased efficiency which begs the question will increases in productivity reduce the standard 40-hour work week?

We talked about the need for AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) in various applications, such as driverless cars, and discuss a hypothetical situation where training and generalizations might not be enough.  

We touch on AI safety and the risks of new technology and where we honor certain limits.

And, the potential future of AI, suggesting that AI could be the next step in evolution. It also raises the possibility of AI becoming disinterested in interacting with humans due to their more efficient communication among themselves.

Backgrounder on Howard Cannon:
Howard helped build the first commercial Lisp Machines that originated from the MIT AI lab in the early 1980s. Symbolics transformed the way people wrote software, ushering in the creation of entirely new ways that was of thinking about AI and software development in general. Many shiny exciting AI products being used today have origins from the summer of AI in the 1980s. In addition to hundreds of AI research efforts pioneered in that area, Symbolics was the first domain to be registered on the Internet. March 15, 1985.

From Wikepedia:
Symbolics designed and manufactured a line of Lisp machines, single-user computers optimized to run the programming language Lisp. Symbolics also made significant advances in software technology and offered one of the premier software development environments of the 1980s and 1990s, now sold commercially as Open Genera for Tru64 UNIX on the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Alpha. The Lisp Machine was the first commercially available workstation, although that word had not yet been coined.

I wrote an article about my personal experiences with AI in the 1980s while at Symbolics and MCC Research, see Marketing and Selling AI – a retro look 40 years back and how AI was hyped in 1980

You can learn more about Symbolics at the original URL. Special thanks to Aron Meystedt for his tireless contribution in maintaining the Symbolics.com website along with many valuable insights from that era.

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