Why is/was LISP good for AI programming?

  • #1
Stephen Tashi
Science Advisor
7,775
1,537
TL;DR Summary
Why is/was LISP thought to be good for AI programming?
Why is/was the LISP programming language thought to be good for writing programs that implement artificial intelligence?

As I imagine it, early AI programs were oriented toward verbal (i.e. text) inputs and outputs. So perhaps a list processing language is/was well suited for that?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
14,047
8,009
I think the symbolic manipulation feature was why. You could write a lisp program that wrote and ran a lisp program ie you could dynamically change the programs processing steps.
 
  • Like
Likes Hornbein, Tom.G and FactChecker
  • #3
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,437
3,218
Lisp is a very old language, contemporary to languages like FORTRAN. When AI started becoming popular there were few alternatives that could handle non-arithmetic problems. As @jedishrfu says, the ability to perform symbolic and non-arithmetic operations was considered important for AI. Also, as @jedishrfu says, the ability for the program to piece together code on the run and evaluate it was useful. That ability also made FORTH a language to consider.
 
  • #4
14,047
8,009
I always felt Forth was Lisp written RPN.

Lisp was also known as ‘Lots of InSipid Parentheses’
 
  • Like
Likes FactChecker
  • #7
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,437
3,218
Lisp was also known as ‘Lots of InSipid Parentheses’
And anyone who ever had to work with Lisp code in a regular, non-Lisp-oriented, text editor, has to agree.
 
  • #9
jtbell
Mentor
15,940
4,607
Lisp was also known as ‘Lots of InSipid Parentheses’
The way I always saw it was "Lots of Stupid Parentheses" or "Lots of Silly Parentheses". :smile:
 
  • #10
14,047
8,009
  • Like
Likes FactChecker
  • #11
gleem
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2,045
1,463
A reader of this thread suggests LISP is a dead language. However, it was developed for particular applications and as such is a better language than the popular C's, Java's, or Python.

Here is a good review of its utility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5952920/
 
  • Like
Likes FactChecker
  • #13
14,047
8,009
I had a friend pull up a similar article years ago on Clojure aka lisp on JVM I tried it but felt my team would never consider it even though there were some great benefits. Sometimes procedural / OO folks are a hard crowd to please.
 
  • #14
elcaro
116
25
Summary:: Why is/was LISP thought to be good for AI programming?

Why is/was the LISP programming language thought to be good for writing programs that implement artificial intelligence?

As I imagine it, early AI programs were oriented toward verbal (i.e. text) inputs and outputs. So perhaps a list processing language is/was well suited for that?
No. Recursion and meta-progamming and functional features were the pro's of LISP.
 
  • #15
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,437
3,218
A reader of this thread suggests LISP is a dead language. However, it was developed for particular applications and as such is a better language than the popular C's, Java's, or Python.

Here is a good review of its utility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5952920/
Considering that Perl was a significant programming language of the Human Genome Project, I can't help but notice that the referenced article is very vague on any advantage that Lisp has to Perl. As a Perl programmer, I came close (although overcome by events) to joining that effort.

See How Perl Saved the Human Genome Project and BioPerl for more details.
 
Last edited:
  • #16
14,047
8,009
I remember reading a Dummies book on Bioinformatics and it mentioned Perl a lot. It struck me as funny because Perl was on the outs and python was ascending for general programming use.

Often academic projects latch onto programming languages based on what the grad student or principal investigator was familiar with instead of what’s the best overall language to use. Bioinformatics was very text search intensive making Perl an ideal choice but later as other tools gain traction Perl loses to python or some other more performant language. Sometimes choices are made on the free tools and libraries the project latches onto.

I never understood why Clojure/Lisp was gaining adherents when it seemed easy to really get lost in the details of the implementation of an application. Small programs were elegant by scaling up presented developer issues for maintainability. The article my friend had provided said that this startup team had switched from Scala to Clojure and saw huge benefits in maintainability and performance but again I never fully understood why they just didn’t use Java or something similar.
 
  • Like
Likes FactChecker
  • #17
jtbell
Mentor
15,940
4,607
The way I always saw it was "Lots of Stupid Parentheses" or "Lots of Silly Parentheses". :smile:
Argh, I left out a word. Both should begin, “Lots of Insane…” o0)
 
  • #19
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2021 Award
29,164
14,399
I haven't touched LISP in years, so I will only make two comments:
  1. The fact that LISP ignores trailing parentheses is a mistake. That encourages the programmer to stick a zillion at the end, thus covering up a logic error.
  2. There is AI and there is AI. Modern AI is not so concerned with what LISP does well - what I would call machine deduction" - as 1980's AI was.
 

Suggested for: Why is/was LISP good for AI programming?

  • Last Post
8
Replies
276
Views
6K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
99
Views
2K
Replies
20
Views
960
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
517
Replies
14
Views
302
Replies
11
Views
514
Replies
20
Views
154
Replies
1
Views
1K
Top