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A Sociological Study of the Official History of the Perceptrons Controversy

Mikel Olazaran
Social Studies of Science
Vol. 26, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 611-659
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/285702
Page Count: 49
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A Sociological Study of the Official History of the Perceptrons Controversy
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Abstract

In this paper, I analyze the controversy within Artificial Intelligence (AI) which surrounded the 'perceptron' project (and neural nets in general) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I devote particular attention to the proofs and arguments of Minsky and Papert, which were interpreted as showing that further progress in neural nets was not possible, and that this approach to AI had to be abandoned. I maintain that this official interpretation of the debate was a result of the emergence, institutionalization and (importantly) legitimation of the symbolic AI approach (with its resource allocation system and authority structure). At the 'research-area' level, there was considerable interpretative flexibility. This interpretative flexibility was further demonstrated by the revival of neural nets in the late 1980s, and subsequent rewriting of the official history of the debate.

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