#DPW: The Medieval History of AI in Procurement & Combinatorial Decision Making

Following up on a DPW discussion with Matteo Stefani regarding the historical theory of artificially intelligent decisionmaking, I said that I would post a quote from one of my favorite early essays on AI, penned in 1967 by the Italian writer Italo Calvino:


"Shannon, Weiner, von Neumann, and Turing have radically altered our image of our mental processes. In the place of the ever-changing cloud that we carried in our heads until the other day, the condensing and dispersal of which we attempted to understand by describing impalpable psychological states and shadowy landscapes of the soul – in the place of all this we now feel the rapid passage of signals on the intricate circuits that connect the relays, the diodes, the transistors with which our skulls are crammed. [...] One of the most arduous intellectual efforts of the Middle Ages has only now become entirely real: I refer to the Catalan monk Raymond Lully and his ars combinatoria. The process going on today is the triumph of dis-continuity, divisibility, and combination over all that is flux, or a series of minute nuances following one upon the other. [...] What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration or intuition is nothing other than finding the right road empirically, following one's nose, taking short cuts, whereas the machine would follow a systematic and conscientious route while being extremely rapid and multiple at the same time." (Italo Calvino, Cybernetics & Ghosts, 1967)