A.I. parity with the West in 2020

Someone just sent me a link to an editorial by Ken Church, in the journal Natural Language Engineering (who knew that journal was still going? I’d have thought open access would’ve killed it). The abstract of Church’s column says of China,

There is a bold government plan for AI with specific milestones for parity with the West in 2020, major breakthroughs by 2025 and the envy of the world by 2030.

Something about that plan sounded familiar. Then I remembered the Japanese Fifth Generation project. Here’s Ehud Shapiro, writing a trip report for ACM  35 years ago:

As part of Japan’s effort to become a leader in the computer industry, the Institute for New Generation Computer Technology has launched a revolutionary ten-year plan for the development of large computer systems which will be applicable to knowledge information processing systems. These Fifth Generation computers will be built around the concepts of logic programming. In order to refute the accusation that Japan exploits knowledge from abroad without contributing any of its own, this project will stimulate original research and will make its results available to the international research community.

My Ph.D. thesis, circa 1989, was partly on logic programming, as was my first book in 1992 (this post isn’t by Andrew, just in case you hadn’t noticed). Unfortunately, by the time my book came out, the field was pretty much dead, not that it had ever really been alive in the United States. As an example of how poorly it was regarded in the U.S., my first grant proposal to the U.S. National Science Foundation, circa 1990, was rejected with a review that literally said it was “too European.”

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