Have I Got News For You about the history of AI!

After a long hiatus from this website, I am going to catch up with it all by posting only some of the things I have been up to recently!

In December I was invited to one of the most fascinating events that I have ever taken part in, on AI and Humour, organised by some of the writers of Have I Got News for You. Contributors ranged from HIGNFY’s own Jimmy Carr, to neuroscientist Sophie Scott, Piotr Mikowski, AI researcher and stand-up Comedian who performs alongside AI, as, well, myself.

I spoke about Lewis Carroll’s early ideas about AI and Comedy – as he saw making someone laugh as a divine gift, the prerequisite was to understand the workings of the soul (the “psyche”, or indeed the mind) – a process that could, he, as a mathematician, believed, fundamentally be understood in mathematical terms, and thus eventually be mechanically reconstructed (he was keen on Babbage’s experiments in doing so, and even visited the man). In the absence of this being a scientific possibility at his time (or, even now) machinated attempts at producing any form of entertainment, literature, on indeed entertaining, comedic literature, were represented in his works, as the object inducing laughter.

Much to my excitement, I not only got to talk to brilliant experts about the history of AI and automata, but also the experts of tomorrow at Canterbury’s Simon Langton School for boys. Upon the kind invitation by Dr Liz Askey, I was honoured to present the Hol Lecture, entitled “The Alice in Wonderland World of Artificial Intelligence”. Much to the intrigue of the present students, for whom the connection of literature and science at first seemed a stretch, I began the lecture with soon-to-be face of the £50 note Alan Turing’s school library record, which indicated he borrowed the collected works of Lewis Carroll, both Alice novels: Wonderland with its confusions of reality and and dream, and Looking-Glass, with its mirror worlds – but notably also the Game of Logic, not once, but three times, before he went on to compose his own “Imitation Game”. In a lively two hour workshop, student began to design the AI projects of tomorrow, from a multidisciplinary perspective of Biology, Linguistics, Philosophy, and of course Computing — a rousing, and intellectually stimulating day of which the students and their teachers kindly provided a lovely write-up, concluding “It was incredible! Two hours was not enough to discover the whole new world of Artificial Intelligence!”.

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