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Mechanisation of Thought Processes

D.Clark, Enclosing the Field: from ‘Mechanisation of Thought Processes’ to ‘Autonomics’, PhD Thesis, 2002.

The title is taken from a symposium held at the National Physical Laboratory in 1958. At this time hardware design was becoming stable and interest was turning to what would later be known as software. The 1958 symposium is particularly interesting in this regard as presenting many ideas which were largely ignored until a generation later. It includes one of the first papers to consider genetic algorithms and multi-agent systems. It also trails the LISP language, the only realised element of the (unrealisable?) project to "formalise common sense".

This study looks at software as a development in the history and philosophy of science. The context includes the re-evaluation of the relationship between mental and physical experience which occurs in psychology at this time and the emerging transition from physics to biology (particularly genetics) as the focus of scientific enquiry.


This thesis is available for download.