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Douglas Lenat, Who Tried to Make A.I. More Human, Dies at 72

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Douglas Lenat in 2016.

A former professor of computer science at Stanford, Douglas Lenat embarked on an effort to build common sense into computers.

Credit: Brent Humphreys

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 proving ground for the latest A.I. technology.

From The New York Times
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