– Herbert Simon, 1956.
Herbert Simon (1916 – 2001) is seen by many as one of the most influential social scientists of the last century. He was also a political scientist, economist, psychologist, and professor. Loved by his students and esteemed by his colleagues, the Noel Prize winner (1978, Economics) Simon loved to learn, loved to teach, and could seemingly handle just about anything he set out to do.
Simon’s work in the formative years of artificial intelligence have prompted some to call him the “father of AI.” He was one of the privileged few attendees at AI’s seminal event, the month-long Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence in 1956.
His quote after the conference – “Machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do” probably wasn’t one of his finer moments. Even today, 36 years after Simon’s 1976 target, we can think of a kajillion things that machines can’t do that man can. Moreover, though AI has come a long way since the year Elvis first hit the charts, we’re still nowhere near the independently “thinking” computer to which Simon most probably alluded. For these reasons, we must honor one of the very few gaffes he ever made with a prominent place in our Top Ten.
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