Artificial intelligence is becoming the most significant single development of our time – promising as it does the end of ‘work’ and consequent social revolution.
‘Clever’ machines are playing an increasingly important role in our lives, and with the ‘Fifth Generation’project in Japan and parallel developments in America and Europe well underway, their impact is growing incalculably.
Vernon Pratt places the emergence of artificial intelligence in its historical and conceptual context. By locating the shift of interest and ways of thinking that made ‘artificial thought’ conceivable in the seventeenth century, he traces the gradual evolution of the hardware that was eventually to support it from the inventions of Schickard and Pascal through those of Leibniz and Babbage to the modern von Neumann computer.
This development is set alongside the developing conceptualizations of reasoning and logic that have in recent years brought these machines to an unnerving kind of life.
Vernon Pratt took degrees at Manchester and Oxford in philosophy, and taught at University College, Cardiff, until moving to Lancaster University in 1976, where he was Director of the School of Independent Studies (1979-85). Publications include Religion and Secularization and Philosophy of the Social Sciences and articles on the history and philosophy of biology.