Douglas Lenat, Who Tried to Make Computers More Human, Dies at 72

Logo The New York TimesThe New York Times
2023-09-04 18:04:25  • 6 mins

He spent decades working on artificial intelligence, striving to create machines that could replicate common sense.

Douglas Lenat, an artificial intelligence researcher who spent nearly 40 years trying to build common sense into computers, recreating human judgment one logical rule at a time, died on Thursday in Austin, Texas. He was 72.

His wife, Mary Shepherd, said the cause was bile duct cancer.

In the late 1970s, as a professor of computer science at Stanford University, Dr. Lenat developed an A.I. system he called Eurisko a Greek word meaning I discover. It was designed to automate the discovery of new scientific concepts, methods and laws by analyzing data.

In 1981, he used this system to analyze the rules of an exceedingly complex role-playing game called Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron, in which players used a trillion-dollar budget to design and deploy a fleet of warships. Much like chess, Go and Jeopardy! in later years, the game was an ideal providing ground for the latest A.I. technology.

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