TITLE: A Personal Goodbye to AAAI
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: June 06, 2005 5:04 PM
DESC: Not renewing my AAAI membership has foced me to admit that I am no longer primarily a student of AI. That is hard to admit, as something of the end to the dream that led me into computing.
I recently made a bittersweet decision: I am
not going to renew my membership in
The AAAI is the American Association for Artificial
Intelligence, and I have been a member since 1987,
when I joined as a graduate student.
Like many computer scientists who grew up in the '70s
and '80s, AI was the siren that lured me to computing.
Programs that could play chess, speak and understand
English sentences, create a piece of music; programs
that could learn from experience... so many
tantalizing ideas that all lay in the sphere of AI.
I wanted to understand how the mind works, and how I
could make one, if only a pretend one in the silicon
of the rather inelegant machines of the day.
I remember when I first discovered
Gödel, Escher, Bach
and was enchanted even further by the idea of
self-reference, by the intertwining worlds of music,
art, mathematics, and computers that bespoke a
truth much deeper than I had ever understood before.
The book took me a whole summer to read, because every
few pages set my mind whirling with possibilities that
I had to think through before moving on.
I did my doctoral work in AI, at the intersection of
knowledge-based systems and memory-based systems, and
reveled in my years as a graduate student, during which
sciences of the artificial and cognitive science were
constant topics of discussion and debate. These ideas
and their implications for the world mattered so much
to us. Even more, AI led me to study psychology and
philosophy, where I encountered worlds of new and
challenging ideas that made me a better and more
My AI research continued in my early years as an
assistant professor, but soon my interests and the
needs of my institution pulled me in other directions.
These days, I think more about programming support
tools and programming languages than I do AI. I
still love the AI Enterprise but find myself on the
outside looking in more often than not. I still love
the idea of machine learning, but the details of modern
machine learning research no longer enthrall me. Maybe
the field matured, or I changed. The AI that most
interests me now is whatever technique I need to build
a better tool to support programmers in their task.
Still, a good game-playing program still draws my
attention, at least for a little while...
In any case, the idea of paying $95 a year to receive
another set of printed magazines that I don't have time
to study in depth seems wasteful of paper and money
both. I read some AI stuff on the web when I need or
want, and I keep up with what my students are doing
with AI. But I have to admit that I'm not an AI
For some reason, that is easier to be than to say.