• William L. Weaver

Consider the Turtle

An Origin Story as Big as They Come

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the Greek word "Logos" to have the trinity meaning of "word", "reason", and "plan" of the cosmos that gives it order, form, and meaning. [1] The writer of the Christian Gospel of John uses "Logos" to open the document, which, when translated into English, reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [2]

A more recent John, Professor John McCarthy, while an Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College, is attributed with first coining the term "Artificial Intelligence" at a conference he organized and named the "Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence" in 1956. [3] Soon after, Professor McCarthy invented a mathematical notation for writing computer programs named "LISP", which quickly became the favored programming language for artificial intelligence (AI) research. [4] In addition to pioneering many of the ideas of computer science that are used in modern computer languages, LISP and Professor McCarthy had a huge influence on MIT Professor Seymour Papert. Professor Papert had worked with Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva from 1958 to 1963 while Professor McCarthy was actively developing LISP. [5]

Professor Piaget had developed a comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence. The theory provides a framework for the nature of knowledge itself and for how humans, as children, gradually come to acquire, construct, and use it. [6] Along with researchers Wallace "Wally" Feurzeig and Cynthia Solomon while at the American research and development company of Bolt, Beranek, and Newman near MIT, Professor Papert integrated the developmental theories of human intelligence of Professor Piaget with the developments in artificial intelligence of Professor McCarthy to develop a dialect of LISP he called "LOGO" - derived from Logos. [7]

Green Sea Turtle
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Among the innovations developed by Professor Papert using LOGO, was his reliance on exploring human and artificial intelligence using "body-syntonic reasoning". [8] Much like how human infants learn to use their mouths, tongues, eyes, ears, and limbs to explore their own bodies and the world around them, Professor Papert reasoned that students would more-easily learn how to communicate with a computer if they could get immediate feedback on the effects of their typed commands. To that end, LOGO is based on controlling the movement, actions, and decisions of an on-screen (originally on print-out) object that Professor Papert analogized to be a "Turtle". In LOGO, the Turtle is controlled by LOGO commands as it moves around its virtual environment. This visual feedback is similar to controlling a video game object with a joystick or mouse, but it requires the programmer to reason how to describe the Turtle's behavior using specific language-based commands.

Professor Papert shared his original design thoughts in a series of videos produced in the mid-1980s. The collection is a fantastic introduction to LOGO and is hosted by MIT at

LOGO is one of the primary computer languages used by Rehobots and in upcoming posts and tutorials I am super excited to share it with you.










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