Special SCS Presentation

Distinguished Lecture Series

Keeping the Baby Album: An Informal Conversation about Newell and Simon and the Birth of Artificial Intelligence at Carnegie-Mellon

Pamela McCorduck is the author or co-author of ten published books. Both her fiction and her nonfiction deal with aspects of science—mainly the psychological impact of computing, especially of artificial intelligence, and in her later books, the sciences of complexity.

She began her writing career as a novelist, and published two critically praised novels. In what she believed would be a temporary detour, she moved to nonfiction, and wrote Machines Who Think, the first history of artificial intelligence. She only returned to writing novels after six published works of nonfiction.

In its original year of publication, Machines Who Think was cited by the New York Public Library as a book of particular merit, was generously praised in Scientific, American, and twenty-five years later, the journal ,AI Magazine devoted a two-page article to the book’s quarter century of influence. In March 2004, a 25th anniversary edition was published, which included a substantial afterword to bring the history of artificial intelligence up to date then. The book is still in print thirty-five years after its original publication.

Her recent novels reflect many of the same interests as her nonfiction. The Edge of Chaos(2007) and Bounded Rationality (2012), the first two parts of a planned trilogy, called Santa Fe Stories, are centered on a group of characters formally or informally connected with the Santa Fe Institute and its revolutionary research into the sciences of complexity. Writing the trilogy has recently been interrupted, however, by writing an untitled memoir and social history of artificial intelligence. The new book relies not only on her personal recollections of the four founding fathers of AI, Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky, but on the private journals she has kept for more than forty years. In addition to Machines Who Think her nonfiction includes The Fifth Generation, The Rise of the Expert Company, The Universal Machine, Aaron's Code, and The Futures of Women.

Her nonfiction books have been translated into all the major European and Asian languages, and The Fifth Generation was an international best-seller.

She received a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She now divides her time between New York City and Santa Fe with her husband, Joseph F. Traub

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