What is LISP in Artificial Intelligence?

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  • 0:00 Daring to Dream
  • 0:39 What Is Artificial…
  • 1:16 What Is LISP?
  • 2:02 LISP & Artificial Intelligence
  • 2:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we'll take a look at LISP, including some of its characteristics, what the acronym stands for, what it's used for, and how it contributes to artificial intelligence.

Daring to Dream

Wouldn't it be nice to have a computer assistant? An entity that would perform those menial or tedious tasks we dread doing. You know, creating our grocery lists, writing our latest research paper, or scouring the Internet for news articles and video that might be of interest. By now, most of us have seen, or heard of, JARVIS from Marvel's Avengers movie fame, or, if you are old school, perhaps HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Regardless of your generation, the idea of an artificially intelligent computer hard at work for us isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is the area of study within computer science that focuses on mimicking human thinking and behavior, specifically, within the various computers we use. As you might imagine, this is no small task as the human brain is extremely complex. However, for targeted applications like playing games including chess and go, researchers have met with considerable success. Computers are now able to beat even humanity's best at these games. Clearly, there is more work to be done to get true human behavior, but it won't be long before what is seen in movie magic becomes the norm in reality.

What Is LISP?

LISP is a computer programming language. In fact, it's one of the oldest programming languages in existence, second only to FORTRAN. It dates back to 1958, when it was developed at MIT by John McCarthy. The name LISP is an acronym that's constructed from the phrase 'list processing'. LISP programs and data are represented internally in this fashion; that is, as lists, giving rise to the name. This internal representation makes it simple for LISP programs to operate on data or other LISP programs. For example, a mathematical statement like:

I + J x K

could be represented as:

(+ I (x J K))

or in other words, as a series of list entries.

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