Informatics Informatics Department Lighthill Report

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The nature of intelligence is a fascinating problem. Because the question is so fundamental, several varieties of scientist are interested in it, and several committees have therefore needed to think about it. For example, the Science Research Council and the Medical Research Council have set up a joint panel to co-ordinate their support of neurobiology, which might be described as the chemistry of the brain. The Science Research Council's Computing Science Committee's 'Review of Research and Training in Computing Science' (published in June 1972) noted different, and incompatible, views about the nature and aims of research on machine intelligence. The Science Research Council also supports work in mathematical logic, formal linguistics, and experimental psychology relevant to the nature of intelligence: the Council will therefore shortly be considering a proposal that a Cognitive Science Panel should be set up under the Science Board to deal with work in these particular fields. The Engineering Board will continue to be responsible for supporting work on advanced automation.

Since the nature of intelligence, and the possibility and importance of 'artificial intelligence', are enormously pervasive and contentious questions, it did not appear to me to be possible to assemble a dispassionate body of expert advisers to review the field, as is our usual practice. I therefore asked Sir James Lighthill, FRS, Lucasian Professor of Applied Mathematics in the University of Cambridge, to make a personal review of the subject. His report forms Part I of this Paper Symposium.

The Science Research Council discussed Sir James's report in September 1972, and decided to publish it, together with some alternative points of view. Professor N. S. Sutherland's comments form Part II of this Paper Symposium, and in Part III there are comments from Dr. R. M. Needham, Professor H. C. Longuet-Higgins and Professor D. Michie. On behalf of the Council, I should like to thank all those who have contributed to this review. The Council would welcome readers' comments on the importance of artificial intelligence research, and the extent of the support the Council should plan to give to it. Comments should be sent to The Secretary, Science Research Council, State House, High Holborn, London WC1 R 4TA.

Chairman, Science Research Council.