Author Pamela McCorduck talks with Jim about themes of her latest book, This Could Be Important: My Life and Times with the Artificial Intelligentsia. They talk about C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures thesis that explores the divide between the humanities & sciences, Pamela’s professional & personal friendships with AI pioneers (Julian Feldman, Allen Newell, Marvin Minsky, Ed Feigenbaum, Raj Reddy & Herb Simon), how language is related to AI, symbolic vs. deep learning, drinking sherry with Herb Simon, how her writings on AI were perceived by publishers, scientists & creatives, Arno Penzias’ strong views on AI, potential risks & rewards of future AI, computational art, and the progress of feminism in academia & culture at large.
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Pamela McCorduck is the author of eleven published books, four of them novels, seven of them non-fiction, mainly about aspects of artificial intelligence. She’d first met AI when she was an undergraduate English major at Berkeley, and became steeped in the culture at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon Universities. In 1979 she published the first modern history of artificial intelligence, Machines Who Think, a book said to have influenced a generation of young AI researchers. Her latest book, This Could Be Important: My Life and Times with the Artificial Intelligentsia, is memoir, social history, and group biography of the founding fathers of AI, and describes the friendships, professional and personal, that laid the foundation for her continuing fascination with AI. McCorduck lived for 40 years in New York City until family called her back to California where she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.