It is sad to hear that John McCarthy has died at 84, he was still active on the internet with his web page and raising heck up to the end. If nothing else, that is the way I want to go. The articles about his death says he died of a heart attack, but those are just words, I have an image that there is a LISP based AI that models him.
With data structures, there are attempts to use Java to teach data structures, but the reality is that LISP stand for LISt Processing. It was a struggle to implement LISP initially, since the general purpose computers of the time were not set up to do objected oriented computing. Once that problem was overcome, LISP then had to struggle in the 70s with languages like BASIC and C.
But no matter what the modern software constructs that everyone takes for granted all started with John McCarthy.
And although from time to time I slip a gear and tell people Scheme is based on a way to communicate with UFOs, the reality is that scheme is a subset of the LISP language. (Although, there is really is a computer language, LINCOS, designed to communicate with aliens, and John McCarthy did discuss that software process from time to time, quite interesting, see Chapter 3 of the vide below.) With the finding of rocky planets circling other worlds, his ideas may be needed. Of course he backed the SETI project.
Now don’t think X-Files or aluminum foil hats, John McCarthy was giving deep thinking about how to communicate, it certainly took a lot of courage to speak about “Alien Intelligence”, I can only do it in parody and I know that there are managers who think I am insane.
One of the things that I don’t agree with him is that Alien Intelligence will be more advanced, I can think of several scenario’s that might not be the case. While I do agree with him about evolution, I think Darwin isn’t completely correct.
Darn it! Listening to his talk got me all argumentative about something. !
John McCarthy, a life well lived, a life creating solutions looking for problems and solving the problems. A life challenging the status quo! You will be missed.