The Machine That Changed the World: The Thinking Machine

The fourth episode of The Machine That Changed the World covers the history of artificial intelligence and the challenges that come from trying to teach computers to think and learn like us.

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

Key People/Concepts:

Jerome B. Wiesner, Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Oliver Selfridge of Lincoln Labs, Claude Shannon, Freddy Robot at the University of Edinburgh, Sir James Lighthill, Terry Winograd‘s SHRDLU, Edward Feigenbaum‘s work on expert systems, Doug Lenat’s Cyc project, Oliver Sacks, neural networks, NETtalk


Marvin Minsky (MIT), Hubert Dreyfus (UC Berkeley), Edward Feigenbaum (Stanford University), Hans Moravec (Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute), Doug Lenat (University of Texas, Austin), Dean Pomerleau (Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute), Terrence Sejnowski (Salk Institute)

Next up…

The last episode: The World at Your Fingertips. Computer networks, including the Internet, and their global impact on communication and privacy.


    Thanks for posting this. I watched, and taped, the original program back in the nineties; however, this chapter on attempts to build an AI failed to tape for some reason. My subsequent attempts to get PBS to run the series again, or buy a copy of the series online, failed. Many thanks for giving me a second shot at watching a very informative piece of work. I was amazed at how much computers have advanced since the original series aired in 1992. The one thing I think wasn’t distinguished in the program was the difference between intelligence and consciousness. Computers are definitely intelligent. The true goal of AI research is to make a machine that either achieves “consciousness” or can mimic it so perfectly.

    Thanks a lot for posting these episodes. I have been looking for a DVD of this series – ever since the VHS tape went off the market. I had taped the series onto VHS tape myself, but I watched it so many time, it became unplayable.

    Thanks again…

    Very insightful episode (not just into computers, but into human beings as well) and one of my favorites of this series. What’s great now (especially for those of us who watched this series in 1992) is that you can catch up on Doug Lenat’s Cyc project 18 years later and see how it has progressed at

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