RIP John McCarthy

The inventer of LISP and the originator of the term AI has passed at the age of 84. While many developers denounce functional programming languages for being unnecessarily difficult or having too many parenthesis, functional programming is an essential part of a well rounded developer’s diet. It is one thing to learn how to use pointers, but nothing can be more useful than to build a mutable language yourself. As a musician, LISP has begat many tools useful for music synthesis and composition. Common LISP, David Cope’s EMI system, and even SuperCollider (which employs the same syntactical traits as LISP) are in existence because of the work done by McCarthy.

SuperCollider was the first language I learned, with Scheme following. Since then I’ve done many projects in Scheme/Racket at NU. I’m currently studying program languages using Racket by constructing AST grammars, interpretors, and compilers. My career as a developer is strongly rooted in a fundamental understanding of logic and computation, which I could not have achieved without functional languages such as LISP.

There is good news. Plenty of good work is being done on LISP, Racket, and other functional languages. While it is mostly relegated to the academic realm, the research being done is helping to further the vision of John McCarthy, hopefully one day bringing closure to his search for an intelligent machine.

More information on his passing can be found here, via BBC.


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