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How Claude Shannon Helped Kick-start Machine Studying



Among the many nice engineers of the twentieth century, who contributed probably the most to our Twenty first-century applied sciences? I say: Claude Shannon.

Shannon is greatest identified for establishing the sphere of data principle. In a 1948 paper, one of many biggest within the historical past of engineering, he got here up with a manner of measuring the data content material of a sign and calculating the utmost fee at which info may very well be reliably transmitted over any kind of communication channel. The article, titled “A Mathematical Principle of Communication,” describes the premise for all trendy communications, together with the wi-fi Web in your smartphone and even an analog voice sign on a twisted-pair phone landline. In 1966, the IEEE gave him its highest award, the Medal of Honor, for that work.


If info principle had been Shannon’s solely accomplishment, it could have been sufficient to safe his place within the pantheon. However he did much more.

A decade earlier than, whereas engaged on his grasp’s thesis at MIT, he invented the logic gate. On the time, electromagnetic relays—small gadgets that use magnetism to open and shut electrical switches—have been used to construct circuits that routed phone calls or managed complicated machines. Nonetheless, there was no constant principle on find out how to design or analyze such circuits. The best way folks thought of them was when it comes to the relay coils being energized or not. Shannon confirmed that Boolean algebra may very well be used to maneuver away from the relays themselves, right into a extra summary understanding of the operate of a circuit. He used this algebra of logic to research, after which synthesize, switching circuits and to show that the general circuit labored as desired. In his thesis he invented the AND, OR, and NOT logic gates. Logic gates are the constructing blocks of all digital circuits, upon which your entire edifice of pc science relies.

In 1950 Shannon printed an article in Scientific American and in addition a analysis paper describing find out how to program a pc to play chess. He went into element on find out how to design a program for an precise pc. He mentioned how information constructions could be represented in reminiscence, estimated what number of bits of reminiscence could be wanted for this system, and broke this system down into issues he known as subprograms. At this time we might name these features, or procedures. A few of his subprograms have been to generate doable strikes; some have been to provide heuristic value determinations of how good a place was.

Whereas engaged on his grasp’s thesis at MIT, Shannon invented the logic gate.

Shannon did all this at a time when there have been fewer than 10 computer systems on this planet. They usually have been all getting used for numerical calculations. He started his analysis paper by speculating on all kinds of issues that computer systems is perhaps programmed to do past numerical calculations, together with designing relay and switching circuits, designing digital filters for communications, translating between human languages, and making logical deductions. Computer systems do all this stuff in the present day. He gave 4 the explanation why he had chosen to work on chess first, and an essential one was that folks believed that taking part in chess required “pondering.” Subsequently, he reasoned, it could be an incredible take a look at case for whether or not computer systems may very well be made to assume.

Shannon recommended it is perhaps doable to enhance his program by analyzing the video games it had already performed and adjusting the phrases and coefficients in its heuristic evaluations of the strengths of board positions it had encountered. There have been no computer systems available to Shannon on the time, so he couldn’t take a look at his thought. However simply 5 years later, in 1955, Arthur Samuel, an IBM engineer who had entry to computer systems as they have been being examined earlier than being delivered to clients, was working a checkers-playing program that used Shannon’s actual methodology to enhance its play. And in 1959 Samuel printed a paper about it with “machine studying” within the title—the very first time that phrase appeared in print.

So, let’s recap: info principle, logic gates, non-numerical pc programming, information constructions, and, arguably, machine studying. Claude Shannon didn’t trouble predicting the long run—he simply went forward and invented it, and even lived lengthy sufficient to see the adoption of his concepts. Since his passing 20 years in the past, now we have not seen anybody like him. We most likely by no means will once more.

This text seems within the February 2022 print situation as “Claude Shannon’s Biggest Hits.”


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