The SRI Artificial Intelligence Center: A Brief History


Nilsson, N. J. (1984). The SRI Artificial Intelligence Center: A Brief History. Artificial Intelligence Center, SRI International.


Charles A. Rosen came to SRI in 1957. I arrived in 1961. Between these dates, Charlie organized an Applied Physics Laboratory and became interested in “learning machines” and “self-organizing systems.” That interest launched a group that ultimately grew into a major world center of artificial intelligence research, a center that has endured twenty-five years of boom and bust in fashion, has “graduated” over a hundred AI research professionals, and has generated ideas and programs resulting in new products and companies as well as scientific articles, books, and this particular collection itself. The SRI Artificial Intelligence Center has always been an extremely cohesive group, even though it is associated with many contrasting themes. Perhaps these very contrasts are responsible for its vitality. It is a group of professional researchers, but visiting Ph.D. candidates (mainly from Stanford University) have figured prominently in its intellectual achievements. It is not part of a university, yet its approach to AI has often been more academic and basic than those used in some of the prominent university laboratories. For many years a vocal group among its professionals has strongly emphasized the role of logic and the centrality of reasoning and declarative representation in AI, but it is also home to many researchers who pursue other aspects of the discipline. Far more people have left it (to pursue careers in industry) than are now part of it, yet it is still about as large as it has ever been and retains a more or less consistent character. It is an American research group, supported largely by the Defense Department, but, from the beginning, it has been a melting pot of nationalities.

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