Informatics Informatics Department Lighthill Report

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Overview

Lighthill's report was commissioned by the Science Research Council (SRC) to give an unbiased view of the state of AI research primarily in the UK in 1973. The two main research groups were at Sussex and Edinburgh. There was pressure from Edinburgh to buy a US machine, the Digital Equipment Corporation DEC10 which was used by most US researchers. AI research was funded by the Engineering Board of SRC as part of its Computer Science funding. The Lighthill Report was published early in 1973. Although it supported AI research related to automation and to computer simulation of neurophysiological and psychological processes, it was highly critical of basic research in the foundation areas such as robotics and language processing. Lighthill's report provoked a massive loss of confidence in AI by the academic establishment in the UK including the funding body. It persisted for almost a decade.

AI research continued but the next attempt to mount a major activity in the area did not come until the September 1982 Research Area Review Meeting on Intelligent Knowledge-Based Systems. The findings of which were accepted by SERC (Science and Engineering Research Council, a change of name) and became the IKBS part of the Alvey Programme.

A video of a BBC TV Debate - June 1973 - Lighthill Controversy - at the Royal Institution with Professor Sir James Lighthill, Professor Donald Michie, Professor Richard Gregory and Professor John McCarthy concerning the findings is available at http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/events/lighthill1973/.

Sir James Lighthill died on the 17 July 1998.

Stuart Sutherland died on the 8 November 1998.

Roger Needham died on the 28 February 2003.

Hugh Christopher Longuet-Higgins died on 27 March 27 2004.

Donald Michie died in a car accident on 7 July 2007.


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