Expert Systems: AI in Business (book) - Lisp Propulsion Laboratory log

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Expert Systems: AI in Business (book)

Friday, October 8, 2004

To learn more about expert systems, I have bought a couple of books, including Expert Systems: Artificial Intelligence in Business by Paul Harmon and David King (John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1985; ISBN 0 471-81554-3). The book is a bit dated, but I got a copy via an Amazon Marketplace vendor at a bargain price: 0.56 $ -- okay, plus 9.79 $ foreign shipping. I have later seen it for 0.50 $.

The book was written during the AI spring, and it shows. From the inside jacket: "The second computer revolution has begun!". The foreword by Robert L. Sproull includes more -- how can I put it? -- optimistic claims:

It is early yet to estimate the magnitude of the contribution expert systems will make to the extension of human capability and to our effectiveness as managers, and it would be more than a little reckless to rank it now along with steam power and electricity. But the contribution will be in that class and will be indeed profound.
I think it was probably difficult not to be impressed, for example, by transcripts of MYCIN consultation sessions. Not having directly witnessed the rise of the AI market, I find it interesting that some hype was perceived even back then. From page 9:
Some entrepreneurs, eager to make a lot of money, are making claims that are totally unjustified. In most cases these claims are not deliberately false, but rather are being made by people who simply do not realize the difference between a product that is viable in the academic world and a system that would be useful in a commercial setting.

Still, I'm enjoying the book. It provides a broad overview of expert systems and their industrial applications. Having been written mostly for a non-technical audience, it is less heavy on theory. The book also contains an historically interesting review of expert system tools available at publication time.

There are also cool screen shots of expert system tools, many of which written in Lisp, running on Lisp Machines. And in most cases they are actual screen shots, i.e. photos of a computer screens. Funny.

Copyright © 2004 by Paolo Amoroso

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