The scientist and researcherDonald michieHe was born on November 11, 1923 in Rangoon, Burma, the son of James Kilgour and Marjorie Crain (Pfeiffer) Michie.
Between 1945 and 1952 he studied at Balliol College, University of Oxford. After a successful career as a mammalian geneticist, Michie dedicated her life to developing computers that could perform complex human-like tasks.
Interest ofMichiefor building machines capable of learning continued after the war. In 1960, he developed a computer program that could learn to play a perfect game of zeros and crosses. In the absence of a computer to test the program, the MENACE or Machine Educable Noughts and Crosses Engine was built from matchboxes and colored beads that corresponded to all the potential possibilities in a game.
In 1965,Michieit established the forerunner of the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh and, thereafter, was at the forefront of international research in the field for decades. Working in Edinburgh,Michieand his team developed and built a pair of machines, affectionately known as “Freddy I” and “Freddy II.” These machines were able to learn to identify parts and assemble toy models, such as a car or a boat, integrating perception and action in a single machine.
The importance ofMichiewas made more apparent by his prominent role in James Lighthill’s 1972 report for the Science Research Council. The Lighthill Report, as it was commonly called, and a televised debate in 1973 suggested that AI research had promised too much and had not fulfilled its capabilities up to that point. The debate saw Lighthill faceMichieand two fellow artificial intelligence researchers: James McCarthy and Richard Gregory.
Michie, McCarthy and Gregory were unsuccessful. The result of Lighthill’s intervention became known as the “AI Winter.” Funding for AI research was drastically reduced in the UK and shortly thereafter in the US However, Edinburgh maintained its research, albeit with a departmental restructuring in 1974.Michiehe continued his research at the University for another decade before going on to co-found the Turing Institute in Glasgow as Director of Research.
After his retirement from university teaching,Michiededicated his work to developing a chat-bot to pass the Turing Test: could a computer program convince a human that they are human? He called his chat bot Sophie. Active in the research community until the age of eighty, he dedicated the last decade of his life to the British charity The Human Computer Learning Foundation. He passed away on July 7, 2007 from a car accident.